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Interior receives first application for work in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The Interior Department is pushing back on the first permit application for development work in the newly-opened Arctic National Wildlife Refuge amid criticism from environmental groups.
An oil exploration firm and two Alaska Native corporations together submitted an application to begin seismic exploration work in the wilderness area, the first application for such a project since Congress opened up the area to such work last year, The Washington Post reported.
The plan reportedly calls for the use of explosives, sleds and large teams of workers to map underground gas reserves.
The application is the first step toward oil and natural gas drilling in the previously protected area, but it faces major obstacles before the project can begin.
"This plan is not adequate," Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service said in its reply to the application, according to the report.
The agency's lengthy response specifically criticized the timing of for the proposed operation and "lack of applicable details" or studies on its impact, according to the Post.
Portions of the refuge area remain a critical habitat for polar bears and other endangered arctic mammals. Congress opened up part of the refuge to drilling last year.
Environmental groups have pushed back against the use of the land and are closely monitoring the application process.
"Our biggest fear is that this is going to be rubber-stamped because there is so much top-down pressure from the Trump administration to approve exploration and drilling as soon as possible," the Wilderness Society's Arctic program director Lois Epstein told The Post.