The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced Wednesday that it’s auctioning 10.3 million acres worth of land leases in Alaska for development by oil companies, The Washington Post reports.
The BLM sale comes as congressional Republicans fight to open the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve (ANWR) up for drilling. Right next to ANWR, however, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) holds anywhere from 900 million to 10 billion barrels of oil, available through land leases, according to WaPo.
“I thank the administration for recognizing that Alaska has a leading role to play in America’s energy dominance and welcome its desire to increase access to the resources within our state’s 23-million acre NPR-A,” GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska said, according to the Natural Gas Index. “Responsible development in the NPR-A will strengthen our economy, begin to refill our TAPS and generate new wealth to create prosperity and reduce our deficits.”
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, or TAPS, is a pipeline system that carries oil from NPR-A to the port of Valdez, Alaska, where oil is loaded onto tankers and shipped to the rest of the U.S. and internationally. TAPS needs more oil in the system, however, as the amount of fuel that it transports has been dwindling.
The NPR-A is the nation’s largest oil preserve. Currently, 1.37 million acres are being leased for development, the sales for which generated $280 million. Alaska received half of that sum, the Natural Gas Index reports.
Environmentalists support President Donald Trump in opening up more of the reserve to drilling, but were more cautious of the fast-approaching Dec. 6 auction date.
“Americans should not stand by and allow our public lands to be plundered without restraint,” Wilderness Society Alaska regional director Nicole Whittington-Evans said, according to WaPo. “We need a thoughtful, careful approach that emphasizes responsible development and recognizes that some places are simply too special to drill.”
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