Here’s the New York Times with more:
The decision sets the stage for what is expected to be a fierce legal battle over the fate of the refuge’s vast, remote coastal plain, which is believed to sit atop billions of barrels of oil but is also home to polar bears and migrating herds of caribou.
The Interior Department said on Monday that it had completed its required reviews and would begin preparations to auction off drilling leases. “I do believe there could be a lease sale by the end of the year,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said.
Environmentalists, who have battled for decades to keep energy companies out of the refuge, say the Interior Department failed to adequately consider the effects that oil and gas development could have on climate change and wildlife. They and other opponents, including some Alaska Native groups, are expected to file lawsuits to try to block lease sales.