A last-minute effort to approve seismic surveys of potential oil reserves in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before the end of President Donald Trump’s first term is underway — and could see that work begin this winter.
An application to conduct seismic surveys was submitted to the Interior Department in late August, according to two people familiar with the process, and the agency is scrambling to complete its work in about half the time it would normally take. The applicant, Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation, initially told the agency it had hoped to begin the surveys as soon as December, one of those sources said.
“This is unrealistically fast-tracked,” a DOI employee who has reviewed the application told POLITICO. Another person at DOI confirmed that the Bureau of Land Management is planning to post a draft of the application soon.
Oil companies have long sought access to the pristine region on Alaska’s northern slope, but seismic surveys can cause lasting environmental damage to the tundra and pose risks to polar bears, a federally protected species.
Despite expectations that ANWR contains billions of barrels of recoverable oil, little hard data about the reserves is available. Seismic testing was last conducted there in 1984-85, and damage from the vehicles lasted for decades, and is still visible from the air.
The Trump administration is attempting to speed up seismic tests of potential oil reserves in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, in an effort to make sure they take place before the end of President Trump’s current term.