Judge halts oil lease sale to protect Alaskan wetlands

Ruling that the Bush administration failed to properly consider the impact of oil development on sensitive wetlands, a U.S. district judge has temporarily blocked an upcoming Alaska oil-lease sale of about 1.7 million acres. The Bushies had heard the call of up to 2 billion barrels of oil beneath the permafrost, but a cadre of environmental groups sued to protect 600,000 acres near Teshekpuk Lake, a molting ground for waterfowl from three continents and a caribou hunting ground for Native tribes. “We’re not asking to shut everything down, we’re just going after the most valuable wildlife area,” said Charles Clusen of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Judge James Singleton determined that the administration’s environmental impact statements for the sale were inadequate. He’s given both sides until Sept. 15 to respond to his preliminary ruling; if the defendants manage to change his mind, the lease sale will go forward as planned Sept. 27.