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Mother and cub in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge near Kaktovik, on the north slope of Alaska. cheryl strahl / Flickr

By Rebecca Bowe

Send an army of industry workers into remote polar bear territory in the dead of winter, and things are not going to end well.

Yet that's just what the Trump administration would open the door to as it prepares for oil and gas drilling and moves to authorize seismic testing, a precursor to drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

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Seismic tests are a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. BSEE

Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.

The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.

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The Great Australian Bight is home to one of only two southern right whale calving grounds in the world. Bob Adams / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Australia's petroleum regulator granted permission for seismic blasting in the Great Australian Bight, sparking fierce outcry from environmentalists over its threat to the area's marine life, whihc include endangered blue and southern right whales.

On Monday, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) gave the green light to oil and gas exploration services company PGS Australia's application for seismic surveys off the coast of South Australia's Kangaroo Island and Eyre Peninsula between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 this year.

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Seismic airgun blasting has been proposed within the same main range of imperiled North Atlantic right whales. NOAA

A coalition of attorneys general from nine states added their clout to a South Carolina-based lawsuit against the Trump administration to block seismic airgun blasting off the Atlantic coast.

Democratic attorneys general from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York filed a motion on Thursday to intervene in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by several conservation groups and South Carolina coastal communities.

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North Atlantic right whales are on the brink of extinction and Trump's offshore drilling plans could make things worse. NOAA

Despite vehement opposition from communities, businesses and lawmakers along the Atlantic coast, the National Marine Fisheries Service on Friday is expected to issue five permits, or Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHA), that allow deafening seismic surveys to search for offshore oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Trump administration's move was first reported by Bloomberg, which said the IHAs allow five companies to use airgun blasting in waters off Delaware to central Florida.

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The Q4000 at the Deepwater Horizon accident site. James Davidson / CC BY-NC 2.0

The Trump administration is ignoring advice from the bipartisan commission that investigated the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster as officials move to repeal offshore drilling safety regulations adopted in its aftermath.

Friday is the eighth anniversary of the explosion that killed 11 oil workers and caused more than 210 million gallons of oil to flow uncontrolled into the Gulf of Mexico for more than three months, killing thousands of marine mammals and birds.

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The Trump administration is holding the biggest offshore oil and gas lease auction in U.S. history Wednesday, offering all 77 million acres of unleased, available federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The sale comes as administration officials seek to rescind drilling safety rules approved after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, reduce royalties paid by oil companies, and expand offshore drilling into every ocean in the country.

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A little whale and its mother, photographed in Feb. 2008, are two of only a few hundred North Atlantic right whales on Earth. GA DNR

The North Atlantic right whale is already one of the most endangered whales, with fewer than 450 of the iconic marine mammals left on the planet.

But the situation appears to be getting worse: Researchers tracking the whales' usual calving grounds off Georgia and northern Florida have not seen a single calf yet this breeding season, which started in December and peaks in January and February.

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Fungie the dolphin in Ireland, where 250,000 bottlenose dolphins visit every summer. Belinda Wicks

Ireland's Dáil Éireann, the country's lower house of parliament, voted 78-48 Thursday to advance a bill to stop the government from issuing new contracts for both on and offshore oil and gas exploration.

Despite strong opposition from the Irish government, the legislation was backed by thousands of activists, campaigners, parliamentarians as well as a surprising supporter who believes in life after oil: Cher.

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"After talking with @FLGovScott, I am removing #Florida from the draft offshore plan." Sec. Ryan Zinke / Twitter

The Trump administration will exclude Florida from its controversial offshore oil drilling plan after a plea from the state governor, Rick Scott.

“I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver," Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke said Tuesday. “As a result of discussion with Governor Scott and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms."

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