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Testing for oil in Arctic wildlife refuge proposed for this winter

Testing for oil in Arctic wildlife refuge proposed for this winter

Testing for oil deposits at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) could begin in December, according to a proposed plan for such testing that was posted online Friday.

The government posted a plan submitted by the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation to conduct seismic testing in the refuge, including in an area where polar bears and other wildlife may be found. 

Seismic testing uses acoustic waves that bounce off formations beneath the surface, generating images that help detect oil deposits. 

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This type of surveying can cause damage to tundra vegetation and soils. 

According to the plan, the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation hopes to conduct the surveys in a 847.8 square mile area of the refuge. Politico first reported on the corporation’s application earlier this month. 

The Alaska-based corporation anticipates conducting surveys in December and January. 

It said that wildlife that can be found in the area during the winter might include polar bears, caribou, grizzly bears, wolverines and arctic foxes.

“Although encounters with polar bears or grizzly bears are unlikely, the operator and its contractors will exercise caution during the project,” the plan states. 

Critics have expressed concern that drilling could harm animal species that are found there, negatively affect the landscape, exacerbate climate change and harm the Gwich’in people who hunt caribou there. 

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“Allowing huge thumper trucks and camps onto sacred lands where they leave deep and lasting wounds is a threat to my people, the animals, our food, and our way of life,” Bernadette Demientieff, the executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, said in a statement. “We have raised concerns repeatedly about this administration rushing the process and shortcutting our review.”

A provision in the 2017 Trump tax bill approved by a GOP-controlled Congress opened ANWR to drilling following years of debate over the matter. 

This year, the Trump administration issued a decision to allow drilling in the refuge’s approximately 1.6 million-acre Coastal Plain.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said at the time that this could "create thousands of new jobs and generate tens of billions of dollars."

Several lawsuits have been filed challenging that action.