Hawaii & Alaska
via U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

AK - Trump Administration Schedules Arctic Alaska Refuge Lease Sale for Early January

The outgoing Trump administration announced Thursday it will auction off leases to oil and gas companies in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 6, setting the stage for drilling in the pristine region that’s home to polar bears and caribou.

“Congress directed us to hold lease sales in the ANWR coastal plain, and we have taken a significant step in announcing the first sale in advance of the December 2021 deadline set by law,” said Chad Padgett, Alaska director of the Bureau of Land Management, in a statement Thursday. “The law makes oil and gas development one of the purposes of the refuge, clearly directing the (Interior) secretary, acting through the Bureau of Land Management, to carry out an aggressive, competitive exploration and development program for the potentially energy rich coastal plain.”

A lease sale is expected to face swift court challenges. President-elect Joe Biden has said he strongly opposes drilling in the 19-million acre refuge.

Already, conservation and tribal groups and 15 states have brought lawsuits to halt a sale, arguing that the administration did not meet federal requirements in a plan, finalized in August, that opened the door for the sale. The plan said that all available acreage -- 1.6 million acres of the refuge’s coastal plain -- could be included in a lease sale.

It wasn’t until last month that the administration, in a last-minute move, asked the public to nominate specific tracts for the sale.

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