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The Narrows from Schrader to Peters Lake in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday denied a bid to thwart the Interior Department's plan to sell oil drilling leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Why it matters: District court judge Sharon Gleason's ruling clears the way for the Interior Department to unseal bids tomorrow for drilling rights in the region.

  • The judge denied a motion from environmentalists and Native Alaskans for a preliminary injunction.

What they're saying: "Plaintiffs may be correct that, over time, they may be significantly injured as a result of the planned lease sales on the Coastal Plain," Gleason wrote.

  • "But these future and cumulative potential effects do not demonstrate the irreparable harm necessary for preliminary injunctive relief at this time," the ruling adds.

Yes, but: The ruling is just one step in legal battles ongoing and expected over development in the region — an area subject to a decades-long battle between drilling advocates and environmentalists.

  • Drilling proponents say the region can be tapped with manageable disruption. But environmentalists say it's impossible without harming the ecosystem that's home to caribou, polar bears and other species

Where it stands: Wednesday's unsealing of bids will reveal the extent of industry interest in the region.

  • The refuge may hold huge oil deposits. But companies face strained budgets, cloudy future demand and prices, and activist pressure to keep clear.

The big picture: The Trump administration, on the cusp of President-elect Joe Biden taking office, is selling leases under a GOP-crafted 2017 law that opened the refuge for oil drilling.

  • But there are nonetheless administrative and legal levers that Biden — whose platform calls for "permanently protecting" the region — can pull to try and stymie the years-long development process.

Go deeper: Company interest in drilling Alaska wildlife refuge to be revealed Jan. 6

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Takeaways from Biden's sweeping order on climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's mammoth executive order on climate policy weighs in at over 7,500 words and resists any single narrative, but I've got a few initial takeaways.

Why it matters: The order aims to marshal the entire federal government behind new initiatives, so that means agencies that may not have the muscle memory or expertise of the resource and environmental branches like EPA and DOE.

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

8 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."