Madeline Sponsler, FISM News
The Trump administration on Monday finalized a plan to allow oil and gas drilling in Alaska‘s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, putting it on track to issue decades-long leases in the pristine wilderness area before a potential change in U.S. leadership. The 19 million-acre refuge is home to wildlife populations including porcupine, caribou, and polar bears and has been off-limits to drilling for decades.
But a Republican-passed tax bill in 2017 opened the area to oil and gas leasing, a key pillar of U.S. President Donald Trump’s energy agenda to expand fossil fuel production on public lands. The Interior Department could hold a sale of oil and gas leases in ANWR (Alaska‘s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) by the end of the year, Secretary David Bernhardt told reporters. If found, oil production could begin in ANWR in about eight years, Bernhardt said, with activity lasting about 50 years.
Environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers have fought to block the pristine area from the development of oil rigs, pipelines, and roads. Green groups said it was particularly unjustified at a time of slumping oil prices.
Asked about how the low price of oil might affect an ANWR lease sale, Bernhardt said potential investors were not focused on the spot price of energy when considering long-term projects. Industry interest in ANWR is unclear, and several big U.S. banks have said recently they will not finance oil and gas projects in the Arctic region. Bernhardt said companies would bid on leases despite a lack of seismic testing that is a precursor to drilling.
Alaska‘s governor and a congressional delegation applauded the decision, saying it would create jobs and boost the state’s economy. “The vision of Secretary Bernhardt and President Donald J. Trump will lead to the responsible development of Alaska‘s abundant resources, create new jobs, support economic growth and prosperity, and most importantly, retain well into future Alaska’s critical role in our Nation’s energy policy,” Alaska Governor Michael Dunleavy said in a statement.
Sourced from Reuters, edited for brevity