A Reprieve for Teshekpuk Lake

Last month, we reported on the Bush Administration's plan to open areas of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska to oil drilling. As we noted, this decision threatened the environmentally sensitive area surrounding Teshekpuk Lake. This area is widely considered to be one of the most important wildlife habitat areas in the Artic. Thankfully, the Administration's plan to sell leases for roughly 1.7 million acres around the lake hit a roadblock last week. A federal judge issued a preliminary decision, which will temporarily block the government’s planned September sale. In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge James Singleton said the government’s actions violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not properly analyzing the environmental impacts of drilling near Teshekpuk Lake. In addition, Judge Singleton stated that the federal government failed to consider the effects the plan would have on two species of sea ducks that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Although this is an important step for the environmental groups that filed the suit to block the sale, the decision will not be finalized until later this month. Lawyers for both sides have until Friday to respond to the judge’s preliminary decision. If the decision is upheld, the federal government will have to cancel the lease sale, and revise its plan. See also ::More on Teshekpuk Lake