The Trump administration has finalized plans and opened up 1.5 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling, according to a document signed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. The 19.3 million-acre refuge is home to such animals as polar bears, arctic foxes, and caribou.
“Over the course of this oil and gas program, it could create thousands of new jobs and generate tens of billions of dollars,” Bernhardt told reporters. There is no time table on when leasing could proceed, but Bernhardt said that a sale could occur this year.
The move, which was enabled by a provision in the 2017 Trump tax bill approved by a GOP-controlled Congress, received immediate pushback from environmental groups.
“This plan will not only harm caribou, polar bears, and other wildlife, it is foolish in the face of rapidly advancing climate change,” said Jennifer Rokala, the executive director of Center for Western Priorities.
She added: “Oil companies will have to harden their infrastructure to withstand melting permafrost and rising seas, leading to an even greater impact. Essentially, Bernhardt is approving a plan to despoil America’s wildest landscape for oil that we will be using less of in coming decades, all for the benefit of his former and future clients.”