Trump-Led Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Auction Fails

The Bureau of Land Management, led by the Trump Administration, failed to profit from selling Alaskan land to be drilled for oil.


Article National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Niles Abbott, Contributor

On January 6th, during the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, the Trump Administration began auctioning one million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to the highest bidder.

During his time in office, former President Donald Trump and his administration have actively pushed towards the sale of oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife, a long term goal of the Republican Party for over 40 years. However as the presidential power was being transferred, Trump’s time-frame closed quickly, resulting in a failed auction of a million acres of Alaska’s coastal plain.

Home to 270 species of wild animals, including birds, wolves, moose, bears, and caribou, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last remaining undisturbed wilderness areas in the United States of America. Roughly 19.6 million acres in size, the ANWR is comparable to that of South Carolina. The Alaskan wilderness is also home to the Gwich’in and Iñupiat peoples, Indigenous communities who hold a spiritual connection to the refuge and its animal inhabitants. An extensive amount of opposition from various legal agencies, environmentalists, conservationists, and ethnic communities created many lawsuits challenging the government’s environmental protocol.

Tegan Hanlon, head of Alaska’s Energy Desk, in a live interview on the National Public Radio (NPR) as of January 11th, said that this resulted in many prospective oil companies’ hesitation towards buying the land. He states, “Well, industry analysts have said there are multiple reasons. A major one is the opposition to drilling in this place. There are ongoing lawsuits fighting the Trump administration’s oil leasing program. … And they say the leasing program is rushed and legally flawed. … And there’s the uncertainty about future oil demand and the changing presidential administration.”

Despite this apprehension, the Trump administration (heading the Bureau of Land Management) was able to auction many acres of land to drilling and oil companies, yet not to the extent they expected. On January 6th, only half the acres were sold, 550,000 out of the total 1 million that were auctioned. To make matters worse for the Trump administration, bids were not up to par with the projected revenue made. Instead, roughly half the sold leases made only 0.8% of estimated profit, raiding only $14 million instead of the projected $1.8 billion.

It turns out, there was another reason there were so few bids. According to Hanlon, “The sale received a striking lack of interest. As a former federal gas official … it was a dry hole, a bust. About half of the area up for leasing got no offers at all. No major oil companies submitted bids. Instead, just two small companies each picked up one lease, and the rest of them went to the state of Alaska.”

Not only did the Trump administration over-estimate, but they under promised as well. As the next presidency begins, it is important to remember to hold the government responsible for its actions. A new president does not eliminate the damage done, nor exempt the government from reforming its doctrines and policies. As 2021 begins, the country must remember to hold those in office accountable for their actions against their people, and home.