AIDEA board approves resolution to consider bidding on oil leases in ANWR

 Grass pokes through the snow in the wind-scoured plains in ANWR's 1002 area.
Grass pokes through the snow in the wind-scoured plains in ANWR's 1002 area. (KTUU)
Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 10:10 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Wednesday, the board of directors for Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority passed a resolution regarding whether or not to spend up to $20 million on oil and gas leases inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The decision will allow AIDEA to protect opportunities for exploration and drilling in the area, even if no outside parties submit bids during the Bureau of Land Management’s ongoing lease sale.

The resolution was opposed by many who called into the meeting to offer comments. Most concerns revolved around the notion that the proposal was being pushed through, two days before a major holiday, to suppress public input. Veri di Suvero is the executive director of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, which strongly opposes AIDEA’s involvement in the BLM lease sale.

“Right now is a turning point,” Di Suvero said. “A moment where, instead of having this robust discussion, AIDEA has shut out the possibility of any of it ... Because they knew this was going to be a big discussion.”

The executive director of AKPIRG is one of many who’ve brought up questions over the legality of the AIDEA’s execution of the public process; however, former governor Bill Walker says that the corporations timing mostly boils down to meeting deadlines set by BLM to submit sealed bids.

“December 31st is when the bids have to be in, so AIDEA has to move at the pace that it’s moving at,” Walker said, Wednesday morning. “There’s going to be some push back, I certainly understand and accept that ... but I also applaud them for recognizing that the window is closing up, very quickly.”

Walker is not the only former governor who is vocally supportive of AIDEA’s interest in the lease sale. Frank Murkowski called into the board meeting to urged members to follow through, and even expand upon, the notion of making bids.

“I see you’ve got 20 million dollars down. I’d say that’s a little short. I would suggest that you consider bidding on all of the leases,” he said.

According to Murkowski, AIDEA is the only bidder that will be able to pay “half price,”— a reference to the fact that Alaska will earn 50% of any revenue generated by the lease sale.

The board heard around 90 minutes of public testimony before heading into a two-hour-long executive session. One board member also commented that over 300 email comments were submitted on the topic as well.

Afterward, a unanimous vote was made to approve the resolution. There’s still no guarantee that AIDEA will bid, as the resolution simply gives Executive Director Alan Weitzner the ability to “evaluate,” and possibly bid “within his discretion.”

The BLM will open all sealed bids and announced awarded leases in January 2021.

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