The Bureau of Land Management is auctioning off 10 million acres worth of leases Wednesday for oil and gas exploration in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), 150 miles west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
Republicans in Congress are fighting to open ANWR to oil and gas exploration through the GOP tax bill. The Trump administration is moving ahead with oil drilling in Alaska through the NPR-A, 23 million acres free from the federal restrictions that cover ANWR.
The 10-million-acre lease offering will be the largest single lease sale in the history of the area. The previous record was set in 2004 when 5.8 million acres was offered for leases, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reports. The latest lease sale in 2016 brought in $18.8 million for 1.4 million acres.
“In May, I put my hand on [the Trans Atlantic Pipeline System] and pledged to help fill it by putting Alaskans back to work on the North Slope,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in an October statement announcing the record sale. “This large and unprecedented sale in Alaska will help achieve our goal of American Energy Dominance.”
Environmentalists criticized the sale as soon as it was announced.
“Combined with efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling, this announcement about the Western Arctic reflects the current administration’s wholesale approach to turning over America’s public lands to the highest bidders for development,” The Wilderness Society Alaska regional director Nicole Whittington-Evans told Arctic Now in a statement. “Americans should not stand by and allow our public lands to be plundered without restraint.”
In 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated NPR-A holds about 896 million barrels of recoverable oil and 52.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, Reuters reports.
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