Alaskan company sues for arctic refuge leases


JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – An Alaska state-owned company that was the main bidder in an oil and gas rental sale in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year said it was suing officials federal authorities for what she calls inappropriate actions that prevent rental activity.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority alleges federal officials overrode the suspension of lease-related activities, among other actions. The rental program advanced under then-President Donald Trump. The lease was sold in January, shortly before President Joe Biden took office.

Tyler Cherry, a spokesperson for the Home Office, said Thursday the agency had no comment.

Alaska’s political leaders, including Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the Republican delegation from Congress, have supported opening up the refuge’s coastal plain to development, and a federal law passed in 2017 called for the sale of leases. Proponents of drilling characterized development as a way to boost oil production, generate income, and create or maintain jobs.

But critics have argued that the area, which provides habitat for wildlife including caribou, polar bears and birds, should be banned from drilling, and some would like to see provisions in the law calling for the sale of leases. repealed. Indigenous Gwich’in consider the coastal plain to be sacred and have expressed concern about the impacts on a herd of caribou on which they depend for their livelihood.

A Biden executive order earlier this year called for a temporary moratorium on activities related to the rental program and for the Home Secretary to review the program and “as appropriate and in accordance with applicable law,” conducts a new environmental review.

In June, Home Secretary Deb Haaland said her review revealed “multiple legal loopholes” in the file supporting the leases, including an environmental review that failed “to adequately analyze a reasonable range of alternatives ”. She ordered the ministry’s activities related to the rental program temporarily halted until a further review was carried out.

Home Department official Laura Daniel-Davis in a letter to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority said the additional environmental review would be undertaken to “determine whether the leases should be reaffirmed, canceled or subject to additional mitigation measures “.

The company alleges that federal officials “have embarked on a systematic and politically motivated campaign to prevent any development of the coastal plain.”

The lawsuit filed Thursday lists the defendants Biden, Haaland and Home Office officials.

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