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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in autumn Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
On Monday the Interior Department took the next step toward opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling — they are rushing the process to auction off oil and gas drilling rights there before President Trump leaves office on January 20th, numerous outlets reported. Congress, as part of the President’s 2017 tax cut legislation, requires the Interior Department to auction lease rights in ANWR by December 2021 and 2024. But since then oil prices have plummeted and many major banks say they won’t fund drilling anywhere in the Arctic. President-elect Biden vowed to block drilling and the incoming administration will have the power to issue (or not) needed permits for drilling to actually take place.
Why This Matters: A Biden spokesperson said that this move “will not deter him from fulfilling his commitment to preserving America’s national treasures and the local economies and communities they support,” according to the Wall Street Journal. A lease sale in ANWR in January would be hard to undo, but the Biden team could raise the permitting bar so significantly that it makes the prospect really unappealing to oil companies and their backers. Meanwhile, the climate news gets worse as the Arctic continues to warm rapidly, imperiling native communities and iconic endangered species. Biden’s icy stance on drilling should chill the bidders.
The Interior Department’s Latest Move
Yesterday the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management issued a 30-day “call for nominations” to identify the geographic areas in ANWR that the potential bidders would like to bid on, potential bidders will have 30 days to make their nominations. After that, the Bureau could hold a lease sale and experts say it is possible for the sale to take place in the final days of the Trump Administration, but that will require quick work to complete the necessary legal steps in time.
To Go Deeper:Listen to this podcast, in which Adam Kolton, executive director of Alaska Wilderness League, joins Hannah Blake to discuss the bounty of beauty and life that is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
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