Energy & Environment

Trump administration to further advance lease sales at Arctic refuge: report

The Trump administration is reportedly poised to take another step to advance drilling at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.

Two people familiar told Bloomberg News that the Interior Department will host what’s known as a call for nominations as soon as Monday to gain advice on which parts of the refuge’s coastal plain to lease out.

The administration formally approved opening up the entire 1.56 million-acre coastal plain to oil and gas drilling this year.

Bloomberg reported Friday that the call for nominations could help shape a future lease auction, though the department is required to issue a formal notice before holding the actual sale. 

“Congress directed the Department to hold lease sales in the ANWR Coastal Plain, and we have taken a significant step in meeting our obligations by determining where and under what conditions the oil and gas development program will occur,” Interior spokesperson Ben Goldey told The Hill in an email. 

Goldey didn’t immediately respond to questions seeking clarification. 

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to “permanently protect” ANWR, though a measure in a 2017 tax law requires one lease sale to be held there by Dec. 22, 2021 and another by Dec. 22, 2024.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, has been eager to open up the refuge to drilling, with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt saying earlier this year that it could “create thousands of new jobs and generate tens of billions of dollars.”

The department has also recently taken another step to advance drilling, proposing a plan for the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation to test for oil deposits there starting as soon as December. 

Critics, meanwhile, argue that drilling at ANWR could harm animal species that are found there, negatively affect the landscape, exacerbate climate change and harm the Gwich’in people who hunt caribou there. 

ANWR is home to a number of species, including grizzly bears, polar bears, gray wolves, and more than 200 species of birds. 

Environmentalists slammed the latest reported action Friday.  

“It’s not surprising that Trump’s Interior is pushing a last-second lease sale in the Arctic considering its political appointees are essentially industry insiders, but it is disappointing that this administration until the very end has maintained such low regard for … public lands, or the wildlife and Indigenous communities that depend on them,” said Adam Kolton, the executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, in a statement. 

Updated: 7:07 p.m.

Tags ANWR Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Arctic Refuge drilling controversy Joe Biden

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