Groups protest plans for possible lease sale in Beaufort

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Federal regulators are preparing an environmental review for a possible offshore lease sale in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea and environmental groups are calling foul.

The legality of Arctic Ocean offshore lease sales is the subject of a federal lawsuit. Environmental groups say it’s irresponsible to plan lease sales ahead of a ruling.

“Rather than moving ahead with expending large amounts of governmental resources for analyses and holding public hearings for a lease sale the court may decide is illegal, the Trump Administration should wait for the court’s decision,” said Lois Epstein, Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society, in a prepared statement.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced Thursday it would prepare the environmental review in support of a potential oil and gas lease sale in the Beaufort Sea next year. The review would analyze potential effects of leasing, exploration, development and production. A 30-day public comment period runs through Dec. 17.

The agency scheduled public hearings in three Arctic coast communities followed by a hearing Dec.6 in Anchorage.

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