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In a live-streamed auction in Anchorage, Alaska on Wednesday, federal officials accepted bids for leases to explore oil and gas across 1.6 million acres of land—land that, until 2017, had been protected from fossil fuel development as part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Hari Sreenivasan brings us the latest on drilling in the ANWR.
There was a head-spinning amount of news this week, so we wanted to dig back into one story that may have gotten lost in the shuffle for some viewers: The first sales of fossil fuel leases in previously protected public land in Alaska.
In a live-streamed auction in Anchorage on Wednesday, federal officials accepted bids for leases to explore oil and gas across 1.6 million acres of land — part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR.
Today, we're following Congress's direction and fulfilling that commitment to the nation and to Alaskans to develop a responsible oil and gas leasing program.
But the sale, taking place just two weeks before the end of the Trump Administration, was not the blockbuster some supporters had hoped for. Only half of the 22 tracts made available received any bids at all, and none of the major energy companies took part. The vast majority of the purchases were by a state-owned economic development group.
In total, the auction raised $14.4 million, half of which goes to the state of Alaska. That's far less than the $1.8 billion that supporters estimated the leases could generate when the Republican-controlled Congress opened the refuge to oil and gas exploration in 2017.
It was a massive flop for the Trump administration.
Adam Kolton is the executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League. He says the sale shows that it's not just environmental advocates and indigenous groups that think drilling in ANWR is a bad idea.
Even the oil companies themselves are understanding the new landscape where it doesn't make sense to make up a 70 or 80-year bet that's only going to exacerbate climate change, face enormous environmental opposition, and when you do have a president-elect coming in that is committed to permanently protecting this incredible landscape.
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Hari Sreenivasan joined the PBS NewsHour in 2009. He is the Anchor of PBS NewsHour Weekend and a Senior Correspondent for the nightly program.
Sam Weber has covered everything from living on minimum wage to consumer finance as a shooter/producer for PBS NewsHour Weekend. Prior joining NH Weekend, he previously worked for Need to Know on PBS and in public radio. He’s an avid cyclist and Chicago Bulls fan.
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