By raising the estimate, the bureau more accurately reflects the potential effects or damage that oil drilling can have in those areas. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that the OEM’s original estimate of 1 billion barrels was too low, which in turn underestimated the risk of an oil spill.

Approval of the new draft, which calculates that 4.3 billion barrels are recoverable, could allow companies like Shell, ConocoPhillips, and other companies to start drilling operations in both the Beaufort and Chuchki Seas.

But the coalition says the threat to wildlife and the environment is too great. “Shell is putting the Arctic walrus in double jeopardy. Their world is melting because of oil companies’ greedy thirst for more fossil fuels, and now their home will could be under imminent threat from a Shell spill,” said Greenpeace Arctic campaign specialist John Deans.

“The last thing Arctic walruses need is dirty drilling in the middle of their most important habitat,” said Rebecca Noblin of the Center for Biological Diversity.

In October, a group of 35,000 Pacific walruses were forced to a small strip of shore on the coast of northwest Alaska, which biologists said was a direct result of global warming.

Margaret Williams, managing director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Arctic program, said at the time: “The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change.”

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