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Beaufort Sea in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo: Patrick Endres/Corbis Documentary via Getty Images

The Interior Department on Tuesday is publishing a formal solicitation for tracts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to lease for oil drilling.

Driving the news: The bureaucratic timelines — starting with a 30-day comment period — mean that an actual auction of drilling rights could occur just a few days before President-elect Biden's inauguration.

Why it matters: Completing a sale would create more facts on the ground and make it more difficult for Biden, who opposes drilling in the Alaskan preserve, to thwart the effort.

The big picture: Lease sales are required under a 2017 GOP-crafted bill that authorized leasing after a decadeslong battle over the region.

  • But as we've reported here, Biden has several levers he can pull to slow down the process, even though his efforts would be challenged in court.

What they're saying: A ClearView Energy Partners note points out that slowing things down — via steps like new climate reviews of permitting, to name just one — could effectively be a lasting win for opponents.

Between the lines: That has a lot to do with where things stand with oil markets. Per ClearView...

  • "[W]e would ... contend that 'slow' can function much like 'no' on a present-value basis, particularly during an era of low demand and high investor expectations for capital discipline."
  • "Thus, for the Biden Administration, a series of slow losses — and all the uncertainty that repeated slow-walking and court proceedings might create — could be tantamount to a win (big spenders have left the Arctic empty-handed in the past)."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Takeaways from Biden's sweeping order on climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's mammoth executive order on climate policy weighs in at over 7,500 words and resists any single narrative, but I've got a few initial takeaways.

Why it matters: The order aims to marshal the entire federal government behind new initiatives, so that means agencies that may not have the muscle memory or expertise of the resource and environmental branches like EPA and DOE.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate action on stimulus bill continues as Dems reach deal on jobless aid

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate will now work through votes on a series of amendments that are expected to last overnight into early Saturday morning.

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.