US approves oil, gas leasing plan for Alaska wildlife refuge
August 18, 2020 - The Trump administration has given final approval for a contentious oil and gas leasing plan on the coastal plain of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where critics worry about the industry’s impact on polar bears, caribou and other wildlife.
The next step, barring lawsuits, will be the actual sale of leases. Development – should it occur – is still years away, according to AP.
Environmentalists have promised to fight opening up the coastal plain, a 1.56-million acre swath of land along Alaska’s northern Beaufort Sea coast after the Department of the Interior approved an oil and gas leasing programme.
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signed the Record of Decision, which will determine a programme for where oil and gas leasing will take place.
The decision makes the entire coastal plain – 8% of the 19.3-million-acre refuge – available for oil and gas leasing and potential development. The Department of the Interior said the plan includes protections for habitat and wildlife, including operational time limits on 585,400 acres.
Bernhardt said there will be at least two area-wide leasing sales of at least 400,000 acres each. The first will be held before Dec 22, 2021, and the second by Dec 22, 2024.