Sept 6 (Reuters) – The U.S. Interior Department will announce on Wednesday the cancellation of oil and gas leases on a federal wildlife refuge purchased by the Alaska State Development Corporation in the final days of the Trump administration. matter.
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) was awarded seven leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a day before President Joe Biden took office, pledging to protect polar bears and 19.6 million acres (7.7 million hectares) of habitat. Caribou.
Interior and AIDEA officials were not immediately available for comment.
It’s Biden’s latest effort to limit oil and gas operations on public lands as part of a broader agenda to combat climate change.
Under Trump, the Interior Department sold off leases in ANWR in January 2021 over the objections of environmentalists and tribal groups. A tax bill passed by Republicans in 2017 opened the region to oil and gas leasing and ordered the Interior to hold two lease sales by December 2024.
The oil and gas industry failed to accept the 2021 lease sale, which received just $14 million in high bids, mostly from AIDEA.
Months after the first and only ANWR lease sale, Biden’s administration said it would suspend the leases issued pending an environmental review. AIDEA later sued, and last month a federal judge in Alaska rejected the state agency’s claims, saying the government’s delay in implementing the ANWR lease program was reasonable.
Two other companies that won leases in the ANWR lease sale also divested their stakes in 2022.
For decades, Alaska officials have pushed to open drilling in ANWR to protect jobs and revenue for the state. Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan criticized the Interior Department’s move on Wednesday.
“There is palpable anger and frustration among Alaskans about the Biden administration’s relentless assault on our economy and our ability to legally access our lands,” the Republican senator said in an emailed statement.
Alaskan oil production has declined over the past three decades. The state currently produces less than 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day, down from more than 2 million bpd in 1988, according to government figures.
Environmental groups applauded the interior ministry’s decision.
“We applaud (Interior) Secretary (Deb) Holland for canceling illegally awarded oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge,” Abigail Dillon, president of the environmental group Earthjustice, said in a statement. “Looking ahead, we hope to see potentially stronger protections for the Arctic Refuge and the Western Arctic in the coming years.”
Reporting by Jared Renshaw in Washington and Nicola Groom in Los Angeles; Editing by Chisu Nomiyama, David Gregorio and Mark Porter
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