Environmental groups are urging the courts to block the selling of oil drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
The groups filed requests with an Anchorage judge for a preliminary injunction to prevent the Interior Department’s planned January 6 auction of oil and gas leases across the refuge’s 1.56-million-acre coastal plain, Reuters reported.
After the Trump administration conducts the auction, any formally issued leases become legal contracts with the federal government that would be difficult to revoke.
Congress mandated the government hold at least two Arctic refuge oil lease sales by 2024.
But environmentalists and indigenous Alaskans argued that the Trump administration was rushing oil leasing at the risk of destroying an important wilderness.
Environmentalists were already challenging the Interior Department’s August decision to formally authorise an oil auction.
Niel Lawrence, Alaska director and senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defence Council, said there was no justification for the Trump administration to hold an auction on its way out the door.
“There is no explanation for this rush to give away the heart of our largest and most iconic wildlife refuge, except that this crew wants to ruin it forever, while they still can,” Lawrence said.
Companies and investors that want to participate have until December 31 to submit sealed bids.
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