The Trump administration, on its last full day in office, has signed nine tracts of its last-minute oil leases in Alaska; on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management of the state informed.
BLM signed today nine tracts out of eleven, those which received qualifying bids from the first-ever auction in the area. This formal issuance of the oil leases comes just a day before the new administration by the democrat Joe Biden starts.
As we have reported previously, the oil leases in the state have been surrounded by controversy; Joe Biden has pledged to protect the area as it is home to caribou, polar bears and other wildlife. Also, he has promised to ban all new drilling on federal lands.
The sale itself happened on January 6, with very little interest from the industry. The state-owned agency became the sole bidder for most of the acreage sold. Only two other small companies issued on the sale: Knik Arm Services LLC and Regenerate Alaska Inc.
Just a week earlier, oil major BP ended its 60-year presence on the state; which was seen as symbolic of the quiet withdrawal of the industry to this sale. According to Reuters, even major banks accorded not to finance any project in the area.
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Oil leases awardees may face challenges to get drilling permits
As of now, the BLM issued on 437,804 acres “of some of the most highly prospective land on Alaska’s North Slope.” Awardees are, as said above, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority with seven tracts; Knik Arm Services, LLC with one; and Regenerate Alaska, Inc with the remaining one.
“These oil leases reflect a solid commitment by both the state and industry to pursue responsible oil and gas development on the Alaska’s North Slope in light of recent assessments,” commented Chad Padgett, BLM Alaska’s director.
“While any further actions on the ground will require additional environmental analysis, this is a hallmark step and a clear indication that Alaska remains important to meeting the nation’s energy needs,” he concluded.
Now, the awardees will face the challenge of seeking drilling permits to the new administration, and the force of the opposing environmental groups that argue that any activity in the area is a threat to wildlife.
Quoted by Reuters, Adam Kolton, director of Alaska Wilderness League, one of such opposing groups, has called Biden to encourage him to “take strong and decisive action to ensure that no oil rig or seismic truck ever despoils an inch of this last great wilderness.”