People & Money

Trump Administration to Sell Alaska Oil Leases Ahead of Biden’s Inauguration

The administration of United States President Donald Trump will move to consummate the sell-off of oil drilling leases in the sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska prior to the assumption of the presidency by Joe Biden, who opposes drilling in the area.

The White House will be dispatching an invite for nominations in the days ahead, said a spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Anchorage, Alaska. The summon is a request to oil and gas firms on what particular land areas should be put for sale.

Biden resists drilling in ANWR, while legislators in Alaska have long agitated for an opening of the ecologically sensitive zone for energy exploration.

“Development in ANWR is long overdue and will create good-paying jobs and provide a new revenue stream for the state – which is why a majority of Alaskans support it,” said Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group.

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After a 30-day period following the call for nominations, the government will have to issue a notification for an imminent lease sale. The sale will happen 30 days after that a little before Biden’s swearing-in ceremony in January.

Alaska’s daily output is approximately half a million barrels, well below its high of 2 million barrels a day in the late 1980s.

“This lease sale is one more box the Trump administration is trying to check off for its oil industry allies before vacating the White House in January,” said Adam Kolton of Alaska Wilderness League.

Climate and environmental concerns

Trump’s White House in August finalized its plan to open up part of the Refuge in Alaska to drilling. The 19 million-acre expanse is home to Native tribes and wildlife populations like caribou and polar bears.

That move overturned several decades of protections for the largest remaining part of wilderness in the U.S. and was part of a push to expand domestic fossil fuel production on federal lands and secure America’s “energy dominance.”

Oil production within the area will most likely not start anytime soon as companies that buy leases would still seek permits before they commence the exploration for oil and gas.

But environmentalists have denounced the government for failing to adequately consider the effects that oil and gas development could have on climate change and wildlife. And lately, banks in the U.S. have stated they would not fund oil and gas projects in the Arctic region.

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“This administration has consistently ignored our voices and dismissed our concerns. Our food security, our land and our way of life are on the verge of being destroyed,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. The Gwich’in tribe resides in villages in the reserve and across the national border in Canada.

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