The Trump administration is aggressively dashing to expedite drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska by speedily rolling back federal policies protecting the environment and fast-tracking environmental evaluations, according to The New York Times.
The pace has created friction, with many environmentalists and government specialists warning of potential dangers to wildlife and the environment.
"It seems as though the administration is in a headlong rush to put the drill bit into the coastal plain," said David J. Hayes, a deputy Interior secretary in the Obama and Clinton administrations, told the Times. "Given the virgin territory of the refuge, with the unique wildlife dependency issues, I don't know how you do this in an artificially fast and truncated fashion."
The ANWR is believed to hold large oil and gas resources, but also provides protection for species like the polar bear and the Porcupine caribou.
"Developing our resources on the coastal plain is an important facet for meeting our nation's energy demands and achieving energy dominance," Interior Department assistant secretary for land and minerals management Joe Balash said in April after the department mapped out its first steps for drilling in Alaska.
The Republican tax bill signed by Trump last year mandated oil and gas lease sales in Alaska's ANWR.
Many Democrats now think the administration is taking shortcuts, as the Department of Interior plans to sell drilling leases as early as next year and are conducting environmental studies at top speed.
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