Drilling foes see NPR-A bids, request redo on ANWR estimate

Environmentalists staged a protest in front of the U.S. Senate in October. Photo: Liz Ruskin

Three Congress members opposed to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are challenging the revenue projections for that endeavor, and they have fresh evidence on their side.

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The Democratic members wrote a letter asking the Congressional Budget Office to re-evaluate the estimate that lease sales in the refuge could raise $2.2 billion over 10 years, split evenly between the federal treasury and the state of Alaska.

The letter, from top Democrats on the House Resources Committee, points to the annual lease sale held this week for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, to the west of Prudhoe Bay. More than 10 million acres were offered but bids totaled just over a million dollars.

The letter says at that rate, the coastal plain of the refuge would raise only $180,000.

The NPR-A lease sale was lackluster compared to last year’s. Only seven tracts drew bids.

One longtime observer of Alaska’s petroleum industry says companies may have concluded most of the promising tracts in the reserve are either already leased or currently off-limits.

The Arctic Refuge sits to the east of Prudhoe Bay. A sweeping tax bill pending in Congress could open the refuge to its first lease sale.

The letter-writers are Reps. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, and Californians Jared Huffman and Alan Lowenthal.

They did not mention this week’s state lease sale on the North Slope. It raised $21 million in high bids.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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