By MARK THIESSEN Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Department of the Interior has approved an oil and gas leasing program within Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is home to polar bears, caribou and other wildlife. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signed the Record of Decision, which will determine where oil and gas leasing will take place in the refuge’s coastal plain. He said in a statement Monday it was a significant step in determining where and under what conditions oil and gas development will occur. Congress approved the program in 2017, and the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management in December 2018 concluded drilling could be conducted within the coastal plain area without harming wildlife.