Trump Administration Rushes To Sell Oil Rights In Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Enlarge this image

An airplane flies over caribou on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where the Trump administration is moving to sell leases for oil drilling.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/AP

Environment And Energy Collaborative
As Oil Drilling Nears In Arctic Refuge, 2 Alaska Villages See Different Futures

The American Petroleum Institute, a national trade association, welcomed the call for nominations, saying in a statement that development in the Arctic refuge is long overdue, will create good-paying jobs, and provide more revenue for Alaska. It said the industry will work with wildlife organizations and local communities «to safely and responsibly develop these important energy resources.»

Alaska Natives are split on the issue, with some seeing opportunity from drilling while others decry the impact on wildlife, most notably the Gwich’in, whose culture and diet revolve around migrating caribou.

«Any company thinking about participating in this corrupt process should know that they will have to answer to the Gwich’in people and the millions of Americans who stand with us,» said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, in a statement.

But it’s not clear how much interest there will be in drilling. For one thing, it’s expensive in such a remote area.

«The real trick is doing the math around the marginal cost of producing a barrel of oil in that area of the world,» says Andy Mack, a former commissioner with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources who’s pushed for the refuge’s opening.

Other challenges are low oil prices, the coming change in administration, and the risk of more litigation over environmental concerns. Some investors have said they won’t fund new oil and gas projects in the Arctic.

Biden says he plans to permanently protect the Arctic refuge, and ban new oil and gas permitting on all public lands and waters.

If drilling leases are finalized before Biden takes office they could be difficult to revoke, says Mack. But even if not, Biden would still face that federal law that mandates a lease sale by the end of 2021. Still, Mack says the next administration could impose restrictions.

«What they would try to do is make it so difficult and so onerous to get the array of permits,» he says, «that the companies just say, ‘Well, we’re not going to spend ten years just trying to get a simple permit, we’re going to put our money and our investment elsewhere.'»

Комментарии 0