Judge sides with Jewell in dispute over exploration plan

A federal judge has sided with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell over whether Jewell must approve exploration plans meeting certain requirements for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The state last year sued the Interior Department for refusing to consider an exploration plan for the refuge’s coastal plain, calling it a violation of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Federal officials said the exploration authorization expired in the 1980s.

In an order Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason wrote that Congress authorized the Interior secretary to approve limited-duration exploratory activity on the coastal plain and ordered a report generated from the activities by 1987.

Gleason said the law is ambiguous as to whether the secretary must approve additional exploration after that but found Jewell’s interpretation of the law was reasonable.