Last month, the first-ever auction for oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) ended with just three bidders winning drilling rights to more than half a million acres. The controversial auction, rushed in the final days of the Trump administration and widely opposed by environmentalists, raised a tiny fraction of what the government had projected, just $14.4 million in revenue; most tracts went for the minimum price of $25 an acre.
After a 40-year political saga, lease rights to one of the nation’s most pristine, wild places went to extractive energy companies for a pittance. Environmental groups would have likely paid far more to protect the land — a practice some call conservation leasing — but federal rules excluded them. As the Biden administration pauses new oil and gas leasing to review the federal leasing program, it’s time for those rules to change.
Current regulations require leaseholders to extract, harvest, graze, or otherwise develop their leases or risk losing them altogether. Activist and author Terry Tempest Williams found this out the hard way in 2016 when she tried to buy federal drilling rights in Utah to keep fossil fuels... Read more