Trump Administration finalizes plan for oil drilling in Arctic Refuge

Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with the Brooks Range as a backdrop. (USFWS)

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt today announced the official decision to proceed with oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The decision opens up the entire coastal plain — 8 percent of the refuge — to drilling. It does not set a date for holding the first auction for drilling rights, but Bernhardt said that could happen soon. 

“I do believe there certainly could be a lease sale by the end of the year,” he said.

Once drilling rights are sold, it will be harder for a future president to reverse course.

Related: Bill to hobble development of ANWR and Tongass advances in US House

Sen. Lisa Murkowski called today’s action a “capstone moment.” She and every member of Alaska’s congressional delegation has pushed to allow drilling in the area since the law creating the refuge was signed in 1980. 

Environmental groups have fought to keep rigs out of the Arctic Refuge for just as long.

The Wilderness Society, among other groups, said the fight is not over.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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