Interior Department to speed review of ANWR drilling

    Bristol Bay, Alaska (KINY) The Interior Department wants environmental reviews completed on oil and gas leases by March of next year.

    The Arctic Sounder reported the Center for American Progress through a Freedom of Information Act request, found the tentative schedule.  The story was first reported by the Washington Post.

    A Colorado firm, Environmental Management and Planning Solutions has earned the contract to complete the scope and review process.

    The process must still include a minimum 60 day scoping period and 45 day public comment period for the draft environmental impact statement.  At this rate the first lease sale notice could happen next summer.

    The original drilling dates were believed to be seven to 10 years out.  The Alaska Wilderness League Executive Director Adam Kolton said the Trump Administration wants to push the date of oil leases before potential shifts in the political landscape can occur, like this year's house races.

    There were hundreds of thousands of public comments issued during the initial comment period. While many commenters opposed the proposed lease sales, including the North Slope's Gwich'in neighbors to the south, corporation and local government leaders have supported the potential for additional industry interest in the region.

    Supporters of refuge lease sales and opponents alike have called for a longer and more thorough review process, both out of concern for the area and to mitigate future hold-ups or challenges.  The review will be based on older data and previous surveys of the refuge.




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