The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — Police are searching for suspects who shot and killed a 7-year-old Florida girl at a shopping plaza over the weekend.Heydi Rivas Villanueva was sitting in a vehicle with her father on Saturday evening when a stray bullet struck her in the head, killing her, police said.The shooting happened at around 6 p.m. at a Jacksonville shopping plaza, authorities said. Police said multiple shots rang out during a confrontation between “two unrelated groups,” but the circumstances of the incident weren’t immediately clear.“Gunfire erupted between the groups and a stray bullet struck Heydi in the head while she was in the vehicle and she later died in the hospital,” Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said during a press conference Sunday.The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office released photos and surveillance video in connection with the case on Sunday, showing the faces of two potential suspects and two vehicles of interest.The two male suspects fled the scene in an early- to mid-2000s green Nissan Altima, the office said. Details about the make and model of the second vehicle were unknown and there was no way to determine the number of occupants, police said.“Vehicles in the photos attached are being sought due to being in the parking lot at the time of the shooting,” First Coast Crime Stoppers said in a statement Sunday. “The bright blue vehicle we believe was involved in a traffic crash with one of the vehicles. We are trying to make contact with the driver of the vehicle.”Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry called the shooting “heartbreaking” in a statement on Twitter Saturday.“My Lord. My God. This is heartbreaking. These are our children,” Curry said. “Our cops are in pursuit of these terrible people. Prayers for the family. Our law enforcement will bring the full force of the law on those who committed this.”Authorities are offering $11,000 for information leading to an arrest. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
iStock/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) — A couple drowned after being swept out to sea by a wave in front of their young daughter in Oregon on Sunday, just weeks after the family had moved to the U.S. from China, authorities said.Miaochan Chen, 49, and Wenjun Zhu, 41, were picnicking with their 10-year-old daughter along the coast when they decided to walk down a trail leading to rocks that overlook the ocean, Oregon State Police said in a statement. A wave washed over the rocks and swept the couple into the ocean, police said, but their daughter was unharmed.First responders pulled the couple out of the water and tried to revive them but they were declared dead when they reached the hospital, police added.Police said their daughter has been placed in a local foster home while officials work out a more permanent placement.The young girl is a sixth-grader at Lake Oswego Junior High, the Lake Oswego School District said in a statement.“We are profoundly saddened by the tragic incident that occurred over the weekend,” Superintendent Michael Musick said in the statement. “We send our condolences to the family and to their friends. Our first concern is for our student and her well-being.”The principal of Lake Oswego Junior High made an announcement to the students about the tragedy the next morning and activated a crisis response team to speak with students and teachers who need additional support, the school district said.The couple and their daughter had immigrated to the United States from China in July, Oregon State Police said, adding that their family overseas had been notified with the help of the Chinese Consulate.In their statement, police also warned people “to always be aware of the dangerous conditions that exist on the coastline regions. Being aware of tidal changes and wave patterns can help you avoid these types of tragic situations.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
iStock/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) — A St. Louis police officer has been charged with killing a fellow officer after a Russian roulette-style game went horribly wrong.Nathaniel Hendren, 29, was charged Friday with involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action, according to Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and a probable cause statement.Hendren, who was on-duty at the time of the shooting, and Katlyn Alix were allegedly playing a game where all but one bullet was removed from a revolver and the two would take turns pointing it at each other and pulling the trigger, according to the probable cause document. The statement was provided by Sgt. Richard Hellmeier, Hendren’s partner, who was on-duty and with the two at the time of the shooting.According to Hellmeier, Hendren initially spun the cylinder and pointed the revolver away from Alix. But when he pulled the trigger, it did not fire. She took the gun and pointed it at Hendren, but again the gun did not fire. Hendren took the gun back and pointed it at Alix, pulled the trigger and shot Alix in the chest. She was rushed to the hospital by the officers, where she died of her injuries.The 24-year-old Alix was off-duty at the time of the shooting, which took place at one of the men’s apartment at about 1 a.m. on Wednesday. Hellmeier said, according to the probable cause statement, that “he advised that he told the defendant and victim that they shouldn’t be playing with guns and that they were police officers. He felt uncomfortable with them playing with guns and didn’t want to have any part of it and he started to leave. As he left the room but before leaving the apartment he heard a shot. He went back into the room and saw that the victim had been shot in the chest.”Gardner would not comment on the allegations presented in the probable cause statement, but called the shooting a “devastating incident.” “Yesterday, we lost a shining star and a dedicated public servant,” Gardner said. “From everything I hear about this bright, young woman, Katlyn represented the police department in an honorable manner, and she had a very bright future.“I have said this many times before; I will hold people accountable who violate Missouri law regardless of their profession, public status or station in life,” the statement continued. “Today, as much as it saddens my staff and me to file these charges, Katlyn and her family deserve accountability and justice.”The St. Louis Police Department had said Thursday following the shooting that Alix had been shot in an “accidental discharge” when Hendren “mishandled a firearm.”Alix is the fifth police officer to die in the U.S. in a shooting this year. Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Harris County Sheriffs Office(HOUSTON) — A massive manhunt in Texas stretched into its fifth day Tuesday for two armed robbers who gunned down in cold blood a mother of two described by a relative as a “light in a dark world” and had recently become engaged to be married.Donna Pena, 31, was shot to death in a holdup at a Houston-area Shell gas station, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Pena started working at the gas station three days before she was killed, her brother-in-law, Kevin Hamilton, told ABC News on Tuesday.“Why? Just why? It was senseless,” Hamilton said. “They have to pay.”the Harris County Sheriff’s Office released surveillance video of the two gun-wielding robbers, both wearing bandannas over their faces, and one dressed in a hooded sweatshirt with the word “Navy” written on the front and back. His accomplice was wearing red sneakers with white stripes, police said.Investigators said the fatal holdup occurred Friday night while Pena was working in the gas station’s mini market, officials said.In a horrific crime that took just 25 seconds, the two bandits bust through the front door about 10 p.m. with pistols in hand and mercilessly shot Pena dead before emptying the cash register, authorities said.Sheriff’s officials said the two men are believed to be responsible for five to 10 armed robberies in the Houston area, including one recently at a Subway restaurant.“Getting these two men off the streets is a top priority for us. We owe it to Donna Pena, her loved ones and everybody that mourns her death, as well as the community that we are sworn to protect,” Chief Deputy Edison Toquica of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said during a news conference.Hamilton said Pena had previously worked for the chain of Shell gas stations in the Houston area, but quit to go to welding school. He said Pena went back to work three days before she was killed.“She was actually just picking up a shift. That was not her regular store,” Hamilton told ABC News.He described his sister-in-law as “full of love” and is survived by a 4-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son.“She was there for everybody and she loved nature, she loved Texas and she loved just about everything,” Hamilton said. “She was a light in a dark world.”Hamilton said Pena’s boyfriend recently proposed marriage and she accepted.He said Pena’s son is distraught over his mother’s death.“He’s trying to stay strong for everybody,” Hamilton said. “It’s just hitting her little girl. She thinks it’s a dream and we’re all going to wake up.”Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Lafayette County Sheriffs Office(OXFORD, Miss.) — Chilling surveillance video shows an Ole Miss student out on the last night of her life before she was killed allegedly by a college classmate.Alexandria “Ally” Kostial’s body, riddled with multiple gunshot wounds, was discovered in Harmontown, Miss., Saturday morning, authorities said. Brandon Theesfeld, 22, was arrested Monday for murder.Around 11:52 p.m. Friday, the night before her body was found, Kostial was seen on video walking out of Funky’s Bar in Oxford, the Ole Miss college town about 30 miles from Harmontown.In the video, the 21-year-old walks across a street, down a sidewalk, around a building and out of view.Several minutes later, a gray rideshare van pulls up to the corner, according to police. Kostial gets into the van, and just before midnight, the van drives off.The college student appears to be alone the entire time, only seen on video interacting with the rideshare driver and someone at the door of the bar.Deputies on a routine patrol found her body by a lake the next morning.Kostial, a St. Louis native studying marketing at Ole Miss’ School of Business Administration, was in Oxford for summer classes, according to her father.Theesfeld, also student in the School of Business Administration, has since been suspended from the university, according to the school.The 22-year-old has not yet entered a plea. His defense attorney, Tony Farese, told ABC News Thursday that he plans to enter a not guilty plea.Theesfeld’s father told ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA on Tuesday, “I’ve spoken to Brandon. I ask that everyone give him the benefit of the doubt that he is innocent.”Theesfeld and Kostial knew each other for four years, Kostial’s college friend, Rachel Macdonald told ABC News earlier this week.“I never would’ve seen him doing that,” said Macdonald, who said she’s known Theesfeld for about two years. “Not to say that he couldn’t, ’cause anyone’s capable of anything.”“The fact that it happened to Ally, it’s so hard to believe,” Macdonald said. “It’s so sad and she didn’t deserve this. No one deserved that.”Her funeral is set for Saturday.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
DisobeyArt/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Morning commutes around Washington, D.C., were disrupted Monday by activists calling for action on climate change.The protest comes after activists gathered at the Capitol on Friday for the Global Climate Strike and coincided with the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York, where world leaders were meeting to “discuss a leap in collective national ambition” for climate change.The protesters in the nation’s capital, calling themselves Shut Down D.C., blocked major intersections around the city, including K and 16th Streets NW not far from the White House and near where many lobbying and law firms are located, and New York Avenue at Florida Ave NE, saying that “shutting down the nation’s capital could be our best shot at starting this justice-based transition” for climate change.The demonstrators tweeted as they blocked streets, some of them getting arrested.“We know that this shutdown will cause massive disruption to people who bear little responsibility for the climate catastrophe we are facing,” the group said on its website. “But we will also cause massive disruption for politicians, huge corporations and the lobbyists who control our government. We need to fundamentally change the power structure of the United States if we want to stop the climate crisis, and shutting down DC is a big step in the right direction.”Police could be seen at K and 16th Streets NW where a few dozen protesters had placed a pink sailboat in the middle of the intersection, christening it the “Extinction Rebellion.”Shut Down D.C. was live streaming the protest on YouTube showing demonstrators waving flags and holding banners saying, “ROAD CLOSED CLIMATE EMERGENCY.”The group is demanding immediate action on climate change including transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy production by 2030, protecting and restoring of 50 percent of the world’s land and oceans and honoring the rights of indigenous people’s lands.It was unclear how much disruption the protests are causing. Public transit agencies advised riders to be aware for their morning commutes.“Amtrak customers using Washington, D.C. (WAS) Union Station tomorrow (9/23) should allow extra time because of planned protests and expected traffic issues,” Amtrak tweeted.The Maryland Department of Transportation also warned of “possible delays” due to the protests.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
carlballou/iStock(SANTA CRUZ, Calif.) — A wealthy tech executive has been found dead after he was kidnapped from his Northern California home, authorities said. Tushar Atre, 50, was taken from his Santa Cruz home around 3 a.m. Tuesday and put into his own 2008 BMW SUV, according to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office.Atre’s body and car were found later on Tuesday, the sheriff’s office announced Wednesday. The body was found near the vehicle, which was located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, ABC San Francisco station KGO-TV reported.Robbery is believed to be the motive, according to the sheriff’s office.The sheriff’s office has not released more information and said the investigation is ongoing. Atre was a millionaire tech executive, a CEO and founder of Atrenet, according to SF Gate.Atrenet creates and maintains websites for Silicon Valley tech companies and has clients including Hewlett Packard and Deloitte Consulting. SF Gate described Atre’s house as a multi-million dollar home. Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
iStock/courtneyk By: IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News (DALLAS) — The recent jump in coronavirus cases in locations such as Texas and Florida has pitted state and local leaders against each other over safety measures.Despite surging daily numbers of cases in those states, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, both Republicans, have long refused to mandate proven health actions such as face coverings and reduction of crowds. Their actions have prompted city leaders, such as the Democratic mayors of Austin and Tampa, Florida, to take matters into their own hands.Abbott changed his stance Friday when he ordered the state’s bars to close and gave the OK to local leaders to limit crowds to 100 people as the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate (percentage of people testing positive) increased to 12.7% as of Saturday. DeSantis also ordered the state’s bars to close for in-person activity. Abbott’s office didn’t immediately respond for comment.Kathy Cramer, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the lack of consistency from the elected officials will only make things worse.“Now it’s become partisan football, it’s becoming confusing to people,” she told ABC News. “I think people are throwing up their hands and saying I don’t know what to do and I’m just doing what’s right for my family. That could mean taking this pandemic more seriously or being complete lax based on their preferences.”Cramer also warned the pandemic’s trends are not validating the governors’ actions, and if they don’t get on board with what their local leaders are pleading, it could damage their political influence for years to come.Since it reopened on May 1, Texas has seen 102,688 new coronavirus cases, which averages 1833.7 new cases a day, according to the Texas Health Department. During the last three weeks, the state has seen a record number of daily new cases.In Florida, there have been 74,285 new cases since the state reopened on May 5, averaging 1,456 new cases a day, according to Florida’s Health Department. The state has recorded a record number of daily new cases over the last two weeks, such as the over 8,000 new cases on June 26.The state’s health department data has come under scrutiny following allegations from a former employee who contends she was forced to under-report the numbers, a matter DeSantis dismissed as a “non-issue” in May.Despite rising numbers, Abbott and DeSantis didn’t initially heed calls from health officials and city leaders to enforce safety measures.Abbott told Texans on June 16 “there is no reason right now to be alarmed.” He also declined requests that day from a group of the state’s mayors to amend his executive order and give them the power to mandate face coverings.Some of those mayors, however, pushed forward and urged their residents to wear face coverings. A county judge in San Antonio issued an order that mandated them but didn’t issue any fines.Austin Mayor Steve Adler expressed frustration with governor’s policies during an interview with ABC News June 23.“People in the community here are getting conflicting messages on that,” he told ABC News. “Here at the state, the governor continues to say it’s important, but for the longest time, we were unable to enforce it.”DeSantis also said he was against a face-covering mandate for the state, contending that people would heed the health recommendations and do it on their own.“We’ve advised that it’s something that could make an impact…(but) to put criminal penalties on that is something that would probably backfire.” he said in a news conference June 26, the day the state recorded 8,943 new cases.Leaders of some Florida cities, however, disagreed and superseded DeSantis by issuing executive orders that mandated face coverings. Tampa mayor Jane Castor, who issued a mandate on June 22, said the data proved that few cases develop with more people wearing a face covering.“Our community is looking for leadership which is why we are putting this mandatory mask ordinance in effect to protect our citizens. If we wait, more people will get sick and more lives will be lost,” she said in a statement.Palm County, Florida’s health department also issued a mandatory face covering order last week.Cody McCloud, spokesman for DeSantis’s office, told ABC News Friday that the governor hasn’t pre-empted any local governments from enacting their own COVID-19 health orders.“Governor DeSantis is supportive of local leadership as they are uniquely poised to understand the needs of their communities,”Cramer said divisions between local leaders and governors are nothing new, but the coronavirus has emboldened the municipalities to counter the top-down power structure.“If these municipalities prove that they know better, it may mean a weakening of state power,” she said.Randy Erben, an adjunct professor at the University Texas School of Law and former legislative director for Abbott, said the jump in cases is making local and state leaders find a common ground.He noted that Abbott has changed his position on COVID-19 safeguards as the data has shown a jump in cases and has been pushing residents to wear masks and take other precautions, even if his office didn’t mandate it.“I think people are smart,” Erben told ABC News. “They listen to their experts they listen to the pol experts and they’ll do what they have to do.”Cramer said depending on how bad the pandemic gets in certain states, governors could face a reckoning, especially if local municipalities’ actions prove to save more lives than their executive orders“I’m not exactly sure what it will do for policy but it will be a wakeup call for higher-level partisan leaders. They’ll have to say, ‘We need to be better listeners to our local leaders and residents,’” she said.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
Ovidiu Dugulan/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, JON HAWORTH, WILLIAM MANSELL, MEREDITH DELISO, IVAN PEREIRA and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News(NEW YORK) — A novel coronavirus pandemic has now killed more than 530,000 people worldwide.More than 11.2 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.The United States is the worst-affected country in the world, with more than 2.8 million diagnosed cases and at least 129,891 deaths.Latest headlines:– 1st LAPD employee dies of COVID-19– Texas continues record pace of confirmed cases– Florida records a record 11,458 new cases– Cincinnati mandates face coveringsHere’s how the news developed Saturday. All times Eastern.6:57 p.m.: 1st LAPD employee dies of COVID-19The Los Angeles Police Department has announced the first of its employees to die from the coronavirus.Senior detention officer Erica McAdoo died on Friday, according to the department.There are currently 287 department employees to either test positive or be exposed to someone who tested positive and are in isolation.While the LAPD, the third-largest police force in the U.S., has only seen one death, the largest in the country, the New York Police Department, has lost 46 employees to COVID.5:45 p.m.: Star pitcher says he won’t play in 2020 MLB seasonLos Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price said in a tweet Saturday afternoon that he will not play in the shortened 2020 MLB season due to concerns over COVID-19.“After considerable thought and discussion with my family and the Dodgers, I have decided it is in the best interest of my health and my family’s health for me to not play this season,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will miss my teammates and will be cheering them throughout the season and on to a World Series victory.”He said he plans to play next season.Price was expected to be one of the team’s top pitchers, combing with Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler to form an impressive top-3 in the rotation. Price was part of a blockbuster trade this offseason with he and Mookie Betts heading to LA from Boston.The 34-year-old is a five-time All-Star and won the Cy Young Award as the American League’s top pitcher in 2012.He’s not the only top player to either sit out or debate sitting out the season. Angels outfielder Mike Trout, arguably the top player in MLB, said on Friday he had concerns about playing. Ian Desmond, Mike Leake and Ryan Zimmerman are among the players to already say they won’t play.Team summer camps began on Friday and MLB will open the 60-game season on July 23.5:21 p.m.: Texas continues record pace of confirmed casesTexas reported 8,238 cases in the last day, another new daily record for the state. Since June 23, when cases crossed 5,000 for the first time, the state has set a new daily case record six times. Total tests have climbed over that period, but positivity rates have as well.The state has had 191,790 cases to date with 91,752 considered active. There have been 2,608 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.There are now 7,890 patients hospitalized statewide.In total, there have been 2,338,098 tests administered to date with a seven-day positivity rate now at 13.15%.The increase in cases has caused Texas to close beaches in some locations for the Fourth of July, such as in Galveston, and shut down bars statewide.11:47 a.m.: Spanish region goes into lockdownSegrià, located in Catalonia, the northeast region of Spain, will be under a strict new lockdown Saturday after an increase in new COVID-19 cases, Catalan regional president Quim Torra announced Saturday.Residents in Segrià, which includes the city of Lleida, will be confined to their homes and only allowed to leave for work if they have a certificate from their employer, according to the announcement. There were 3,706 cases in the Lleida region on Friday, up from 3,551 the previous day, according to regional health data.10:52 a.m.: Florida records 11,458 new casesThe Florida Health Department said the state has 190,052 total COVID-19 cases as of Saturday morning, with a record number of 11,458 cases recorded in the last 24 hours.The state’s overall positivity rate was 14%, which was a slight decrease from the previous day.Miami-Dade County reported 2,432 new cases, a record high, and a positivity rate of 18.8%, and Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, had 1,359 new cases, a record high, and a positivity rate of 14.1%, according to the health department.8:58 a.m.: Cincinnati mandates face coveringsCincinnati’s City Council voted Friday to require face coverings for residents for all indoor public gatherings.In a 7-2 vote, the council passed the ordnance, which will go into effect on July 9 and mandate face coverings for anyone who takes a cab or public transportation, or shops, dines or works indoors in the city. Violators will be hit with a $25 fine.Face coverings won’t be mandated for outdoor activities, but health officials are encouraging residents to wear them.The city has seen a jump in coronavirus cases over the last couple of weeks. Since June 20, there were 756 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the city’s health department. The virus has killed 65 Cincinnati residents so far, the health department said.7:43 a.m.: YMCA campers, staff test positive in GeorgiaMultiple children and staff who attended YMCA camps in Georgia, have tested positive for COVID-19, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.The camps, which are located on Lake Burton and Lake Allatoona, and being investigated by Georgia’s department of health.YMCA Camp High Harbour closed its two locations on the lakes north of Atlanta last week after a counselor at the Lake Burton site tested positive.YMCA of Metro Atlanta president Lauren Koontz acknowledged the cases but could not confirm how many, AJC reported.Campers are ages 7 to 15, and staff are ages 16 to 22.Georgia reported 2,784 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday. That’s down from 3,472 newly reported cases Thursday, which set a record for the number of new cases.6:10 a.m.: Some Texas hospitals at 100% capacitySome people in Texas received a jarring alert on their phones Friday evening, saying hospitals were at capacity. The alert, sent to Hidalgo and Starr County residents, asked them to celebrate this holiday weekend “responsibly” by sheltering-in-place, avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people, wearing a face mask and social distancing.Hidalgo County and Starr County, which are located in the Rio Grande Valley, are home to more than 900,000 people. Hospitals in the region also put out statements that they have reached or are at critical capacity levels.“Valley Baptist Health System is urging local residents to take all necessary precautions against COVID-19 as our hospitals are at a critical capacity level, like every other hospital across our region,” the organization said in a statement Friday. “Our entire team is working around the clock to manage this crisis situation.”The health system CEO Manny Vela said their hospitals are now at “102% and 101% occupancy,” according to Texas ABC affiliate KRGV.Dr. Jose Vazquez, of the Starr County health authority, said Friday that every hospital in the Valley is full and that patients are being transported to other parts of Texas.“There are no beds in the Valley, Vazquez said, “We are becoming New York,” Vazquez said, KRGV reported.“Unfortunately, we find ourselves in difficult times, right smack in the middle of this difficult pandemic,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said in a statement Friday. “Americans have always risen to the top in hard times. We did it WWII, we did it in 9/11, and we’ll do it again today. All it requires is for us to take personal responsibility for our actions.”Texas has more than 82,000 active COVID-19 cases, and Friday’s statewide test positivity rate was 13.32%. More than 7,300 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across the state. That number was at 6,900 on Thursday.States reported over 57,000 new cases Friday across the U.S., which was another record day for cases, the third this week. There were 721,000 new tests Friday, a huge jump and the country’s first day of more than 700,000 tests. There were 635 reported deaths Friday, according to analysis from the COVID Tracking Project.ABC News’ Ahmad Hemingway, Joshua Hoyos and Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
stanley45/iStockBy JULIA JACOBO, ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration has finalized plans to open a vast amount of protected land in Arctic Alaska to oil development.The Bureau of Land Management on Monday released its plan for the 23 million acres on the western North Slope of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.About 18.6 million acres — roughly 80% of the reserve — are now available for oil and gas development by the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.The decision is “in support of the Trump Administration’s agenda for a stronger and more energy independent nation,” according to a BLM statement.“This action is a significant achievement in delivering on our commitment to provide energy for America, from America,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Casey Hammond said in the statement. “With this decision, we are expanding access to our nation’s great energy potential and providing for economic opportunities and job creation.”In August, the Trump administration announced a plan to allow drilling for an undetermined amount of oil on more than 1.5 million acres on the coast of the refuge, despite decades of protests over how oil development could harm the environment and Indigenous tribes.The new plan “includes important safeguards for wildlife and sensitive resources,” as well as special measures to address concerns from nearby communities on the environmental impact, according to the bureau.The decision to open up the land comes before the drilling rights on the eastern North Slope of the refuge are to be auctioned on Wednesday.Trump’s administration has reversed or hindered efforts aimed at helping the environment, most notably pulling out of the Paris Agreement, removing clean water protections and seeking to fast-track environmental reviews of dozens of major energy and infrastructure projects, including drilling and pipelines.President-elect Joe Biden has said he would move to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from gas and oil drilling.Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.