Nov 16, 2020 - Energy & Environment

The next step in Arctic refuge drilling fight

Illustration of a hand in a business suit drawing a red line in front of an oil rig
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Interior Department will imminently take the next step toward selling drilling leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before President Trump leaves office, Bloomberg reports.

Driving the news: They report that as soon as today, Interior will issue a "call for nominations" for parcels to auction at a sale of drilling rights in 1.6 million acres of the refuge's coastal plain.

Why it matters: The Arctic refuge is thought to hold billions of barrels of recoverable oil. But the sensitive ecosystem is home to polar bears, caribou and other wildlife.

Where it stands: President-elect Joe Biden opposes drilling in the refuge, so look for his administration to try and stymie the effort.

  • But the 2017 law that opened the refuge after a decades-long fight requires leasing there, so he can't just wish the whole thing away.
  • However, there are several ways Biden could delay development efforts or try to reimpose restrictions.

One reason why Alaskan politicians are keen to open ANWR is the prospect of adding new revenues to a state where oil production has long been declining.

The big picture: The U.S. crude oil production boom of the last decade has instead been centered in a few lower-48 states — none more than Texas.

Go deeper: How Biden could thwart Trump's Arctic push

Go deeper