Reporting from Washington —
In a rare recent case of siding with the oil industry, the Obama administration has asked a federal judge to allow some exploratory steps toward drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean.
Late last month, a district judge in Alaska blocked all drilling-related activities in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea, citing gaps in the government's environmental impact assessments for drilling leases auctioned off during the George W. Bush administration.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar responded Friday by asking the court to narrow the ruling to allow drilling giant Statoil, which owns several Chukchi leases, to begin seismic testing in the area. Seismic tests are conducted before drilling begins.
Environmental groups said they were stunned by the administration's move, which they said undercut its decision after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to put the brakes on Arctic exploration.