Environmentalist organizations are suing the Trump administration to reverse a decision that resulted in oil companies purchasing 80,000 acres worth of oil leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A).
Five environmental groups, led by the Northern Alaska Environmental Center (NAEC), have joined in the lawsuit.
The Department of the Interior (DOI) offered 10 million acres of land last year in the largest oil lease sale in U.S. history. The tracts came out of the NPR-A, the largest oil reserve in the U.S. set aside in 1923. The NPR-A is estimated to hold billions of barrels of recoverable oil, as well as a large quantity of natural gas within its 23.5 million acre range.
“The ecosystems in and around these lease sale areas support rich biodiversity and have provided subsistence resources for thousands of years,” NAEC Program Director Lisa Baraff said in a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Their continued protection requires checks and balances be built into the leasing process to ensure BLM adequately evaluates and is able to prohibit activities that would cause environmental harm.”
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The 1976 Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act mandates that the Interior secretary protect the land’s habitat and environmental value when allowing development. The suit was filed to ensure the DOI performs its “legal duty to look at the impacts of oil and gas development on fish and wildlife before it makes decisions,” according to Suzanne Bostrom, attorney for the firm representing the environmental groups, Trustees for Alaska.
Opening areas up for oil development has been a major focus of the Trump administration and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
“Our goal is an America that is the strongest energy superpower that this world has ever known,” Zinke said in a speech given at the Heritage Foundation in September. “The road to energy dominance goes through the great state of Alaska.”
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