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Posted: 2019-01-10 14:00:17

In its push to open Alaska’s pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to fossil fuel extraction, the Trump administration has significantly downplayed potential harm to the environment, including the risk of oil spills and the threat drilling would pose to polar bears, according to a new analysis by the Center for American Progress.

The Trump administration’s goal is to ”get leases in the hands of the oil and gas industry, science and transparency be damned,” said Kate Kelly, public lands director for the left-leaning CAP and a former interior official in the Obama administration.

“The result of that particular focus is ultimately a dishonest look at the impacts that drilling would have on the refuge, its wildlife and the indigenous populations that rely on it for subsistence,” she said.

Last month, the administration took a significant step toward opening large swaths of the remote refuge to fossil fuel production, releasing a report that calls for leasing to begin as early as this summer and details potential effects on the unspoiled landscape. The lengthy draft environmental impact statement ― one of former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s final acts at the agency ― explores three alternatives that would make available for lease between 66 percent and 100 percent of the refuge’s 1.5 million-acre coastal plain.

The Trump administration’s own analysis makes it clear that spills of oil and other substances are not only possible but likely.

The Bureau of Land Management report estimates that future development in the refuge could result in up to 1,745 oil spills by 2050, including six “large” events of at least 1,000 gallons. Additionally, the agency concludes that “the probability of a spill over 100,000 gallons is low,” noting that “only three spills” of that size were documented on the North Slope from 1985 to 2010.

But CAP’s review suggests the federal government’s estimate is far too conservative. The group points to a 2007 report by the Alaska Department of

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