Trump administration finalizes plan to open Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling

The Trump administration announced on Monday it has finalized a plan to open up part of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said drilling leases will soon be auctioned off so companies can start exploring for oil and gas, and this move "marks a new chapter in American energy independence." Under a 2017 law, there must be two lease sales in the refuge by 2024, and Bernhardt said he believes "there could be a lease sale by the end of the year."

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest national wildlife refuge in the United States, and is home to polar bears and caribou. Environmental activists warn that drilling in the Arctic will harm animals, pollute water, and hasten climate change. Gina McCarthy, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, told CNN the Interior's decision is an "egregious intrusion into the sacred lands of the Gwich'in and other Indigenous people" and a threat to wildlife.

Several environmental organizations said on Monday they plan on filing lawsuits to stop the leases. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has called for a ban on new oil and gas permits on public lands.

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