In an unusually rushed, eleventh-hour effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, the Trump administration announced Thursday it will sell leases just two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
The announcement came just 16 days after the Bureau of Land Management asked oil companies to nominate tracts of land in the wildlife refuge in which they want to drill. Normally, such a “call for nominations” is open for at least 30 days and is followed by weeks of BLM analysis, but such a timeline would have risked pushing the lease sale until after Biden, who opposes drilling in ANWR, is inaugurated on January 20.
The degree to which oil companies will actually seek to drill in the pristine area, often described as “America’s Serengeti,” is unclear. Such drilling is widely opposed by environmentalists and some Alaska Native groups, and all major US banks have said they will not provide financing for drilling there.