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The government shutdown has left thousands of federal employees without a paycheck, but the Trump administration is making sure energy companies can continue with plans to extract fossil fuels from public lands.

Even though the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is closed during the shutdown, agency employees organized public meetings for an environmental review for oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), according to Alaska's Energy Desk.

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Northeast National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. Bob Wick / BLM

Despite the Trump administration's unrelenting quest to drill the Arctic, Wednesday's oil and gas lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) yielded a "disappointing" return of $1.5 million, E&E News reported.

Oil and gas giants ConocoPhillips, Emerald House and Nordaq Energy were the three companies that made uncontested bids on 16 tracts of land out of 254 tracts made available by the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) annual sale in the western Arctic.

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Sow and cub polar bears in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Alan D. Wilson/ Nature's Pics Online / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management office in Alaska received a plan to conduct extensive, 3-D seismic testing in search of oil on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) this winter.

The plan—submitted by surveying services SAExploration, Inc. and its partners Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation—is the first step in opening up Alaska's pristine refuge for oil exploration and drilling, the Washington Post reported.

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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Steven Chase, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

By Julia Conley

An indigenous group was joined by investors controlling trillions of dollars in assets on Monday as they called for fossil fuel companies and the banks that fund them to end efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—making clear that harming the protected land is bad for business as well as destructive to indigenous groups' land and the environment.

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Polar Bear sow and two cubs in the Arctic Refuge's 1002 area targeted for oil drilling. Wikimedia Commons

The Interior Department has launched the process of holding lease sales for oil and gas drilling in the 1.6-million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Despite decades of fierce resistance from Democrats and conservation groups, pro-drilling Republicans were able to realize their goal of opening the refuge after quietly including the measure in last year's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

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Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Trump administration is initiating the regulatory process of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas leasing.

Top Interior Department officials recently visited the Kaktovik and Utgiagvik communities in northern Alaska to let them know that the agency will publish in the coming weeks a notice in the Federal Register of its intent to move toward an environmental impact statement on planned leasing, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

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Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with the Brooks Range as a backdrop. USFWS / Flickr

The political battle over whether to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ( ANWR) for oil and gas exploration has raged for decades. Despite the majority of Americans opposing drilling in ANWR, pro-drilling Republicans have tried more than 50 times open up the pristine wilderness to energy development.

But President Trump was apparently indifferent to the matter until an oil industry friend told him that past presidents, including conservative icon Ronald Reagan, couldn't get drilling done.

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Monroe Journal / iStock

By Sam Schipani

While the world was distracted by the government shutdown last Monday, Jan. 22, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke signed a land-swap agreement with the King Cove Native Corporation to trade 500 acres of federal land in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, on the southern tip of the Alaska Peninsula, for tribal land of equal value. The land will be used to build a 20-mile gravel road connecting King Cove to the nearby city of Cold Bay for medical evacuations in poor weather, 11 miles of which will pass through the wildlife refuge.

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The Brooks Range in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Hillebrand / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

By Scott L. Montgomery

After decades of bitter struggle, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) seems on the verge of being opened to the oil industry. The consensus tax bill Republicans are trying to pass retains this measure, which was added to gain the key vote of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

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Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. USFWS / Flickr

The Republican tax bill, which is likely headed to President Donald Trump's desk in the next few days, has major repercussions for our precious environment.

While the electric vehicle industry and the wind and solar sector can breathe a little easier that the sweeping legislation preserves their tax credits, fossil fuel producers are likely cheering the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling.

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The pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) faces a looming threat from oil and gas drilling. The little known provision, proposed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, was quietly included in the House and Senate Republicans' compromise tax bill.

The bill “contains the single most important step I believe we can take to strengthen our energy security and create new wealth," Murkowski, who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Wednesday at the tax bill conference committee meeting.

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