Enlarge / Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Brooks Range across Coastal Plain. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)
The US Department of the Interior (DOI) is moving to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, which could reverse 30 years of conservation efforts in the far north of the 49th state.

According to a document obtained by The Washington Post that was written in mid-August, the DOI requested that the US Fish and Wildlife Service update a 1980s provision to allow new seismic exploration in the Alaska refuge.
The efforts to conduct new studies of the oil and gas under the refuge’s coastal plain are still in preliminary stages—the DOI’s draft rule allowing seismic imaging study would be subject to a public comment period and would certainly face lawsuits from environmental groups if approved.

Even then, exploration efforts wouldn’t automatically trigger well-drilling in the area—extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge requires the approval of Congress as well as a market environment favorable to drilling in the remote and challenging tundra region.
Currently, oil is trading for around $50 a barrel, and the price isn’t expected to rebound quickly with a glut of supply in the world oil market. Without a clear way to profit off that oil, expensive tundra drilling operations are less economically attractive compared to easier-to-tap oil fields around the world.
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