03:29 GMT28 January 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - A US federal judge has turned down requests by conservation and indigenous groups to prevent the outgoing administration from selling oil and gas leases to drilling companies in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

    "...Plaintiffs' motions will be denied without prejudice and a preliminary injunction will not be entered at this time," the ruling read.

    This means that the court refused to halt the federal government from auctioning off drilling rights in ANWR right now. But it postponed ruling on whether to ban the drilling altogether, saying that the proposal filed by a driller to begin exploration this winter "clearly contemplates action in the near future, and if Bureau of Land Management (BLM) does approve the proposal, plaintiffs are not precluded from seeking injunctive relief at that time."

    Citing the Bureau of Land Management's "optimistic, aggressive hypothetical scenario," the judge said the actual seismic exploration would not begin in two years, whereas allowing the agency to issue leases at this time is unlikely to cause "imminent, irreparable injury," as the plaintiffs have claimed.

    US District Court Judge Sharon Gleason issued the ruling on Tuesday, hours before the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was due to open the bidding on Wednesday. The hearing was held on Monday.

    The contended area accommodates many rare species and is considered sacred by the indigenous people of Gwich'in, one of the plaintiffs. Energy companies, on the other hand, long believed that the frozen tundra land stores abundant crude reserves beneath its surface.

    Tags:
    oil, Alaska, US
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