Trump administration races to auction off drilling sites in Arctic wildlife refuge before Biden enters White House

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a breeding ground for endangered polar bears and home to gray wolves, musk oxen and caribou

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Monday 16 November 2020 20:15 GMT
Trump administration racing to auction off oil and gas leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
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Trump officials are racing to push through leases for oil and gas drilling sites in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) before the president leaves office in January after losing his reelection bid to Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, a notice  will be posted to the Federal Register asking developers to submit requests for their preferred drilling sites on the refuge’s 1.6 million-acre coastal plain in Alaska.

The ANWR is a breeding ground for endangered polar bears and home to grey wolves, musk oxen and caribou, along with migratory birds from around the world.

The Trump sell-off will also impact the indigenous Gwich’in people, who rely on the refuge, and whose steering committee have been battling to protect the region from oil and gas companies for decades.

“The oil and gas lease sales on the Arctic Refuge demonstrate the Trump administration’s complete disregard for the human rights of the Gwich’in & Inupiat people and our ways of life that depend on the health of the Refuge’s coastal plain,” said Jody Potts (Han Gwich’in), Native Movement regional director. 

“In the Arctic, our peoples are being heavily impacted by a climate crisis due to fossil fuel extraction, which we cannot afford to continue.” 

Parcelling off America’s public lands for oil and gas drilling, along with mining and logging, has been a hallmark of the Trump era. As the window closes on Mr Trump’s sole term in office, his administration is rushing to complete energy deals and the last of more than 100 environmental rollbacks.

President-elect Biden is firmly opposed to drilling in the ANWR. His campaign platform called for permanently protecting the refuge and  “other areas impacted by President Trump’s attack on federal lands and waters”. Mr Biden has also promised to ban new oil and gas permits on public lands and waters.

A number of large banks including TD Bank, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan Chase have said they will not finance oil and gas activities in the Arctic region. 

“Receiving input from industry on which tracts to make available for leasing is vital in conducting a successful lease sale,” said Bureau of Land Management Alaska State director Chad Padgett, whose office oversees the permits. 

“This call for nominations brings us one step closer to holding an historic first Coastal Plain lease sale, satisfying the directive of Congress in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and advancing this administration’s policy of energy independence.”

This article has been updated 

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