A federal judge in Alaska ruled that the Trump administration’s planned auction of oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) could proceed as planned.
The order by U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason comes after environmental groups and the indigenous people of northeastern Alaska sought a preliminary injunction to block the sale in the ecologically sensitive area.
The sale was scheduled for Jan. 6, but the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) started accepting bids at the end of December 2020.
The Trump administration first floated plans to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling last year, as part of its energy self-sufficiency agenda. The news understandably caused an outcry among environmental groups and some Native American communities.
Four lawsuits challenging the plans to auction drilling rights in the potentially energy-rich coastal plain of ANWR along the Beaufort Sea have been filed since August.
In her order, Gleason said the green and native groups had failed to establish that they would suffer irreparable harm as a result of the sale. If BLM approves “ground-disturbing activities” in ANWR before the groups’ original lawsuits are resolved, Gleason wrote, the groups could again seek a court order to block those activities.