North

Arctic drilling plan in Alaska hits roadblock

Plans for seismic surveys to help find oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have fizzled due to a lack of protection for polar bears, according to a brief statement Saturday from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Company that applied to conduct the survey failed to do required work to identify polar bear dens in region

A polar bear keeps close to her young along the Beaufort Sea coast. A company that had applied to conduct seismic surveys in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was told 'its request is no longer actionable' after it failed to do the required work to identify polar bear dens in the region that would be surveyed. (Susanne Miller/US Fish and Wildlife Service via Reuters)

Plans for seismic surveys to help find oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have fizzled due to a lack of protection for polar bears, according to a brief statement Saturday from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
 
The Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC), the Indigenous-owned company that applied for permission to conduct the survey, failed to do the required work to identify polar bear dens in the region that would be surveyed, Interior spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said in an emailed statement.
 
The likely demise of the seismic plan is the latest in a series of setbacks that have deflated a decades-long ambition to convert the refuge into an oil-producing frontier.
 
Alaska's oil production has been waning since the late 1980s, when the state produced more than 2 million barrels of crude per day. Now its output is roughly 500,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.
 
Ex-President Donald Trump passed tax legislation in 2017 that would have allowed for drilling in the wildlife refuge, known as ANWR, and the federal government held a lease sale in the last days of his presidency.
 
Identification of den sites was needed for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to grant KIC an incidental harassment authorization, a permit that would allow seismic operations near polar bears, Schwartz said.
 
"The company was advised today that their request is no longer actionable," she said in her statement.


 
KIC had planned, through contractor SAExploration, to conduct seismic surveys on about 142,618 hectares within the refuge's coastal plain. The company missed a Feb. 13 deadline to perform its aerial den-detection work, Schwartz said.
 
The Jan. 6 ANWR lease sale drew qualifying bids for only 11 tracts, most from an Alaska state agency that was participating as a backstop in case oil companies did not submit bids.
 
President Joseph Biden and Interior Secretary-designee Deb Haaland oppose oil development in the refuge, as do some Indigenous governments.

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