Arctic Refuge Drilling Auction Attracts Tepid Response
US District Judge Sharon Gleason in Anchorage in Alaska rebuffed arguments by the National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and Native Alaskans that sale of oil drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would cause irreparable damage. She said “While there is a risk of bureaucratic momentum from the sale, the court can issue an injunction preventing other activity on leases even after they are issued. Plaintiffs may be correct that, over time, they may be significantly injured as a result of the planned lease sales on the Coastal Plain. But these future and cumulative potential effects do not demonstrate the irreparable harm necessary for preliminary injunctive relief at this time.”
The administration argued that the leases themselves don’t authorize any ground disturbing activity and subsequent permits are needed to conduct seismic research or begin drilling. Environmentalists had asked the court to block those seismic approvals too.
This decision paved way for Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management to open sealed bids on last Wednesday. The sale raised less than USD 15. The tepid interest comes amid big changes in the energy industry. Major companies, including oil giant Exxon, Shell and BP, have said they are focusing their spending on renewable energy, amid a huge slump in oil prices, in part triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.