The Trump administration’s sale of oil drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will go forward Wednesday, after a federal judge rejected a request by environmentalists to block the auction. The decision is a victory for the administration, which has been racing to issue oil leases in the refuge’s coastal plain before the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Biden has vowed to permanently protect the refuge, but it would be difficult, if not impossible, for his administration to cancel formally issued oil leases.

“Plaintiffs may be correct that, over time, they may be significantly injured as a result of the planned lease sales on the Coastal Plain,” Gleason said. “But these future and cumulative potential effects do not demonstrate the irreparable harm necessary for preliminary injunctive relief at this time.”

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management is scheduled to open sealed bids beginning 10 a.m. Wednesday Anchorage time. It isn’t clear who will participate, given the current economic environment, regulatory uncertainty and steep public opposition to Arctic drilling. Companies once viewed as potential bidders for Arctic acreage have slashed spending this year as the coronavirus pandemic eroded crude demand and prices.

The cases are National Audubon Society v. Bernhardt, 3:20-cv-00205, Gwich’in Steering Committee v. Bernhardt, 3:20-cv-00204, and Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government v. Bernhardt, 3:20-cv-00223, U.S. District Court, District of Alaska (Anchorage).