Trump administration moves to lift ban on oil assessment in ANWR

The Porcupine Caribou herd in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain. (Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Washington Post is reporting that the Trump administration is trying to allow more in-depth studies of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s oil potential.

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According to a memo obtained by the Post, the acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to update a rule that now bars seismic testing in the refuge.

Seismic testing would give geologists a more accurate sense of how much oil is present, and where.

Currently, it’s estimated there’s somewhere between 4.3 and 11.8 billion barrels of oil in the refuge’s coastal plain, also referred to as the 1002 area. Environmental groups have long fought to keep drilling out of the area.

In 2014, the state of Alaska sued Interior to allow oil exploration in the refuge. That lawsuit was unsuccessful.

Any final decision that would allow companies to drill for oil in the refuge must be made by Congress.

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Elizabeth Harball is a reporter with Alaska's Energy Desk, covering Alaska’s oil and gas industry and environmental policy. She is a contributor to the Energy Desk’s Midnight Oil podcast series. Before moving to Alaska in 2016, Harball worked at E&E News in Washington, D.C., where she covered federal and state climate change policy. Originally from Kalispell, Montana, Harball is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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