Bureau of Land Management to Conduct Drilling Lease Sales in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced this week that it will be conducting the first sale of oil and gas drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 6, 2021 via video livestream on the agency’s website.

The left-wing media is reporting that the development is devastating to the pristine part of Alaska and that President Donald Trump is pushing through the long-planned sales before Joe Biden replaces him, including the New York Times: 

The Trump administration on Monday announced that it would begin the formal process of selling leases to oil companies in a last-minute push to achieve its long-sought goal of allowing oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

That sets up a potential sale of leases just before Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, leaving the new administration of Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has opposed drilling in the refuge, to try to reverse them after the fact.

“This lease sale is one more box the Trump administration is trying to check off for its oil industry allies,” said Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, in a statement. “But it is disappointing that this administration until the very end has maintained such low regard for America’s public lands, or the wildlife and Indigenous communities that depend on them.”

But, according to the Bureau, the vast majority of the wilderness will still be off limits to any kind of development. The announcement in the Federal Register said:

[The Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program August 2020 Record of Decision (ROD)] determined where and under what terms and conditions leasing will occur in the Coastal Plain. Ninety-two percent of the refuge remains completely off-limits to development. The ROD also established numerous required operating procedures and lease stipulations to mitigate impacts to important resources, including extensive protections for wildlife such as caribou and polar bears.

The announcement also explained how and why the lease sales came to fruition:

This lease sale was directed by Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (Public Law 115-97) signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. The Tax Act directed at least two area-wide lease sales of not less than 400,000 acres each within the Coastal Plain.

“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,” stated BLM Alaska State Director Chad Padgett. “Oil and gas from the Coastal Plain is an important resource for meeting our Nation’s long-term energy demands and will help create jobs and economic opportunities. The law makes oil and gas development one of the purposes of the refuge, clearly directing the Secretary, acting through the Bureau of Land Management, to carry out a competitive leasing program for the potentially energy rich Coastal Plain.”

The January 2021 Coastal Plain Alaska Oil and Gas Lease Sale will include tracts and acreage identified in the Detailed Statement of Sale and available for leasing pursuant to the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program August 2020 Record of Decision (ROD).

As Breitbart News reported, David Bernhardt, secretary of the Department of the Interior, which oversees Bureau of Land Management, said that the oil drilling would be done on the coastal plain along the shores of the Arctic Ocean and would impact only 0.01 percent of the refuge.

The Times, however, did not report on how the production of domestic energy helps the country’s economy and therefore its citizens. Instead, it painted a bleak picture of the development. The Times reported:

The Arctic refuge is one of the last vast expanses of wilderness in the United States, 19 million acres that for the most part are untouched by people, home instead to wandering herds of caribou, polar bears and migrating waterfowl. It has long been prized, and protected, by environmentalists, but President Trump has boasted that opening part of it to oil development was among the most significant of his efforts to expand domestic fossil fuel production.

Those who advocate for responsible oil and gas production in the United States are praising the Trump administration, including the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group that represents the industry.

The Institute called the lease sales “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.”

The Hill reported that Joe Biden wants 100 percent of the refuge to be off limits, but that if he does become the next president, it may not be easy to reverse the sales:

On the campaign trail, Biden pledged to “permanently” protect the refuge even though he’s likely to be bound by a 2017 law requiring one lease sale there by the end of December 2021 and another by the end of 2024.

Although it would be difficult for Biden to avoid holding the lease sale entirely, by holding the sale before he takes office, the Trump administration may be undercutting some of the legal tools the president-elect has to limit drilling there.

Specifically, it prevents the incoming administration from deciding what land is sold and from setting terms on the leases.  However, avenues still remain for Biden to set some restrictions because lessees will still need to apply for drilling permits, triggering more environmental studies, which could justify limitations.  

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter or send news tips to pstarr@breitbart.com


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