Trump administration to seek bids on Arctic oil leases

US President Donald Trump arrives for a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on November 11, 2020. – US President Donald Trump made his first official post-election appearance Wednesday for what should be a moment of national unity to mark Veteran’s Day, now marred by his refusal to acknowledge Joe Biden’s win. The president visited Arlington National Cemetery, four days after US media projected his Democratic rival would take the White House. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

NEW YORK, New York (AFP) — The Trump administration on Monday invited oil companies to choose proposed drilling territories as it pushes ahead with a controversial Alaska leasing plan in its final days in office.

The Bureau of Land Management said it will Tuesday officially open a 30-day period to accept nominations and comment on some 1.6 million acres (650,000 hectares) in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The move aims to open up to development a target area long sought by petroleum interests and defended by environmentalists. Some major banks have said they won’t finance projects in the refuge.

President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to take office on January 20, 2021 after defeating Trump earlier this month.

A view of the West Wing of the White House as US President Donald Trump continues to challenge the results of the 2020 US presidential election November 16, 2020, in Washington, DC. – The Trump administration announced plans November 16, 2020 for oil companies to choose proposed drilling sites as it pushes ahead with a controversial oil leasing plan in its final days in office. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

Tuesday’s announcement in the Federal Register creating the official comment period will be followed by a subsequent Federal Register notice announcing the lease sale date “published at least 30 days prior to the sale date,” BLM said.

“Receiving input from industry on which tracts to make available for leasing is vital in conducting a successful lease sale,” said BLM Alaska State Director Chad Padgett.

Environmentalists have long fought the plan and filed a lawsuit in US court in August contesting the Trump administration proposal on the basis that it would irreparably harm a place of pristine wildlife that is home to migrating caribou and polar bears.