Drilling a threat to Alaskan refuge
Trump is clearing the way for oil exploration along an Arctic wildlife area
It is the last great stretch of nothingness in the United States, a vast landscape of mosses, sedges and shrubs that is home to migrating caribou and the winter dens of polar bears.
But the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — a federally protected place of austere beauty that during a recent flyover was painted white by heavy snowfall — is on the cusp of major change.
The biggest untapped onshore trove of oil in North America is believed to lie beneath the refuge’s coastal plain along the Beaufort Sea. For more than a generation, opposition to drilling has left the refuge largely unscathed, but now the Trump administration, working with Republicans in Congress and an influential and wealthy Alaska Native corporation, is clearing the way for oil exploration along the coast.
Decades of protections are unwinding with extraordinary speed as Republicans move to lock in drilling opportunities before the 2020 presidential election, according to interviews with over three dozen people and a review of internal government and federal documents.
To that end, the Trump administration is on pace to finish an environmental impact assessment in half the usual time. An even shorter evaluation of the consequences of seismic testing is nearing completion. Within months, trucks weighing up to 90,000 pounds could be conducting the tests across the tundra as they try to pinpoint oil reserves.