Trump’s Arctic oil leases auction draws few bidders

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As part of the Trump administration’s strategy to pay for Republican tax cuts with oil revenue, the coastal plain was up for sale.

The last-minute effort on Wednesday by the Trump administration to auction off part of a long-protected Arctic wildlife refuge to oil drillers attracted almost no interest from oil companies, pushing the state of Alaska into the uncomfortable task of leasing the property itself.

As part of the Trump administration’s proposal to finance Republican tax cuts with oil revenues, the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been up for sale to fracking firms.

The leases could yield $900 million, half for the federal government and half for the state, the Conservatives argued.

But lease sales fell significantly short of that number – the highest offers for 11 tracts of land covering about 600,000 acres of the 1.6 million-acre coastal plain were about $14 million.

The results support environmentalists and watchdog groups’ claims that leasing public land is a bad deal for the country, especially when oil demand is so low and public attention is increasing to the role of the industry in the climate crisis and the harm to sensitive ecosystems.

Drilling for new oil now, when dangerous warming is already occurring on the planet, would be reckless, they said.

“This lease sale was an epic fail for the Trump administration and Alaska’s congressional delegation,” said Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League. “After years of promising a revenue and jobs bonanza, they ended up throwing a party for themselves, with the state being one of the only bidders.”

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Kate MacGregor said the sale would increase the output of domestic energy and create employment.

For decades, the shelter has been preserved and is home to polar bears, migratory birds and spiny caribou, which are important to the native people of Alaska.

As part of their tax bill, Republicans in Congress have opened it up to fracking.

The State Economic Development Agency of Alaska put in almost all the lease bids, hoping that the oil companies would eventually be interested in the field. The $12 million they invested.

The major corporations in the oil sector stayed away from the sale. Only two lesser-known companies have submitted tenders: Knik Arm Services, which is listed as a real estate firm, and 88 Energy subsidiary Regenerate Alaska Inc.

Trump’s agencies have worked aggressively to scale back regulatory rights, in addition to leasing public property. The Environmental Protection Agency released new regulations this week that critics say might stop the government from relying on landmark health research to set standards for emissions. The agency has agreed not to tighten requirements for smog just before Christmas, despite reports showing that it raises the risk of Covid-19.

In a phone call with reporters Tuesday, Joe Biden’s transition team said they are finding that Trump’s weakening programs — particularly on the climate crisis — were more serious than they expected.

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