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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.

2 hours ago - Health

NYC to impose vaccine mandate on private employers

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Monday announced a new COVID vaccine mandate for all private companies.

Why it matters: De Blasio, speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," said the "first-in-the-nation measure" will go into effect starting Dec. 27. It will apply to approximately 184,000 businesses.

D.C.-Beijing tensions are shifting markets

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. markets stand to lose $2 trillion in value if D.C. and Beijing drift further apart.

Why it matters: Political chasms are showing up in new securities regulations that put companies and investors in a bind. The rules are also another reflection of how much relations between the world’s largest economies have cooled, even as they remain economically interdependent.