Speaking at a major oil industry conference in Houston, Texas, on Monday, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said members of the Trump administration are in Alaska this week to lay the groundwork for drilling in the Arctic Refuge and that the administration might hold the first lease sale for oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as early as next year. News reports quoted Sullivan as saying, “It’s my hope, and this is a very aggressive timeline, that we would have the first lease sale ... to be sometime in 2019.”
Legislation passed in December to open the Arctic Refuge to the oil industry does not require a lease sale until 2021. In response to Sullivan’s comments, The Wilderness Society released the following statement from Alaska Regional Director Nicole Whittington-Evans:
“This egregious timeline betrays promises by Sen. Lisa Murkowski and others that lease sales and development would proceed without circumventing environmental analyses. There is simply no way to complete the required environmental reviews, public processes, and tribal consultations in time for leasing in 2019.
“Once again, the Trump administration appears to be racing to sell off America’s public lands, and they seem perfectly happy to shortcut normal processes and overlook the concerns of local communities in the pursuit of reckless development,” Whittington-Evans said. “This administration cannot possibly evaluate all of the relevant information and make informed decisions about the impacts of oil and gas on the refuge’s sensitive coastal plain in such a short amount of time.”