Saturday, 23 January, 2021


Trump administration opens up more protected Arctic land for oil development

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service an airplane flies over caribou from the Porcupine caribou herd on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. Conservationists will try Judge denies request to halt Trump administration from issuing oil leases in ANWR
Kristine Garrett | 09 January, 2021, 10:30

A federal judge on Tuesday declined a request by conservation groups to prevent the the Trump administration from issuing leases for drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, though the broader case that seeks to stop the federal government's oil and gas program in the refuge has not been decided.

Officials from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are scheduled to open and read bids received since late December on more than 1 million acres (4,000 square kilometers) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Alaska's North Slope during a live video broadcast on Wednesday morning.

The tepid interest comes amid big changes in the energy industry.

Several major US banks have also said they will not finance oil and gas projects in the Arctic.

"After years of promising a revenue and jobs bonanza they ended up throwing a party for themselves, with the state being one of the only bidders", he said in a statement. Polar bears den in the snow and ice along the coast and river edges, while muskoxen, wolves, and other wildlife roam the rolling plain. The US estimates there could be 7.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil on the coastal plain, though seismic surveys have not been conducted since the 1980s.

Opening the wilderness for drilling and development has been a long-term priority for Alaska Republicans, but development was expected to be costly since the area has minimal roads and infrastructure.

After decades of controversy, the sale was finally authorised by the US Congress in 2017 as part of a major package of tax cuts.

Delivering the sale just two weeks before leaving office was one of President Donald Trump's last-minute efforts to expand fossil fuel and mineral development in the United States.

The Conservation Alliance and 77 business members from the outdoor, craft beverage, financial, and renewable energy industries wrote a letter to President-elect Biden urging him to act to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil development.

The sale of drilling rights is proceeding despite a last-minute effort by environmental and tribal groups to secure a court order that would have temporarily blocked the sale. As Reuters reports, this left the state agency, Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, as the only bidder for most of the leases. Only two of the bids were competitive, so most of the land was auctioned off for the minimum price of $25 an acre.

The Arctic refuge in northeast Alaska was once seen as prime territory for oil development, given the potential of massive conventional crude reserves that could flow for decades.

"While it might not meet some of the targets that some folks think it should meet, it's still a successful sale", BLM Alaska State Director Chad Padgett said on a call with reporters. Last year, it averaged less than 470,000 bpd, as the development of US shale regions has made other states, notably New Mexico and North Dakota, the vanguards for new development.

"Alaskans have waited two generations for this moment; I stand with them in support of this day".

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