Story at a glance

  • In mid-November, the Trump administration launched the formal process of selling oil drilling leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Every major bank in the U.S. has ruled out financing oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.
  • With few bids from oil companies, the state of Alaska was forced to lease the lands itself.

It was a grand plan proposed by the Trump administration: auction off drilling rights in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), using the money from the leases to pay for proposed tax cuts for corporations. 

But after a mad dash to make the sale before President-elect Joe Biden takes office in less than two weeks, the federal government’s efforts fell short. 

“This lease sale was an epic failure for the Trump administration and the Alaska congressional delegation,” Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, told The Guardian. “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.”  


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Against opposition from environmental groups, including the Alaska Wilderness League, a Republican-led Congress voted to allow drilling in the federally owned ANWR for the first time in 2018 as part of its Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. But after every major bank in the U.S. ruled out financing oil and gas exploration in the ANWR, only three companies bid for just half the acres up for sale. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority won nearly every bid in a sale that raised just $14.4 million dollars, roughly $27 per acre, reported The Hill

“To my knowledge this has never happened before, that a state bids on federal leases within their own state,” Jenny Rowland-Shea, a senior public lands policy analyst at the Center for American Progress told The Hill. “It’s very odd because the state of Alaska will get 50 percent of the revenue from lease sales. Basically they will be paying to not make any money on those lease sales.”  


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Published on Jan 08, 2021