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AK Corporation Must Pay Feds Over $3.6M in ANWR Leasing Fees For '22, As Biden Continues to Block Oil Exploration

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An Alaska state-owned corporation will have to pay the federal government approximately $3.66 million in order to keep oil and gas leases current in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority sued President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland earlier this month in federal court over the administration’s decision last summer to suspend oil exploration in ANWR’s Area 1002.

Haaland issued an order halting all oil exploration activities in June, citing “alleged legal deficiencies” and an “insufficient analysis” of the environmental impact.

In its lawsuit challenging the order, AIDEA cited the Biden administration’s failure to follow the Administrative Procedure Act and provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, among other alleged legal deficiencies.

The Administration Procedure Act requires the federal government to give public notice and time for comments before issuing major policy changes.

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AIDEA further noted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act requires the interior secretary, by law, to “establish and administer a competitive oil and gas program for the leasing, development, production and transportation of oil and gas in and from the Coastal Plain” of ANWR.

Reuters reported that AIDEA leased multiple tracts for 10 years that cover more than 360,000 acres.

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“The lease sale, which took place in January, delivered on President Donald Trump’s plan to open up more land for fossil-fuel exploration and extraction,” according to the news outlet.

ANWR, located in remote northeastern Alaska, covers 19.6 million acres.

Alan Weitzner, executive director of AIDEA, in a memorandum to the public corporation’s board of directors, dated Dec. 1, 2021, calls for the agency to pay the annual lease fees for 2022 as its lawsuit works it way through court.

He lists the total as $3,657,550.

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The Anchorage Daily News reported that “as of early November, AIDEA had spent just more than $12.8 million on its leases, an amount that includes the initial bids, the first year of rent and administrative costs, according to spokeswoman Colleen Bryan.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration pointed out in April that oil production in the Last Frontier reached its lowest level in more than 40 years in 2020.

The downward trend has been continuing since the late ’80s, and opening ANWR, which likely holds over 10 billion barrels of untapped oil reserves, offered an opportunity to reverse the trend.

A little discussed provision of the Biden-backed Build Back Better legislation, which passed the House earlier this month, includes repealing the provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that opened ANWR up to oil exploration, according the Anchorage Daily News.

Following passage of the bill, GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pledged to work with her colleagues to have it removed from the Senate version of Build Back Better.

“In the midst of high energy prices and mounting inflation, responsible domestic [energy] production from Alaska, including the prospective 1002 area is needed more than ever,” she said in a written statement.

“Despite that, House Democrats and the Biden administration are trying to throw it all away through an illegal taking that would fundamentally alter how U.S. leases have been administered for decades.

“We will do everything we can to strike the ANWR provision — and others — from the reconciliation bill when it comes to the Senate,” Murkowski added.

The senior senator from Alaska helped orchestrate the opening of ANWR in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

However, Murkowski was then one of only three Republicans who voted to confirm Haaland in March, despite the nominee making multiple public statements about her opposition to opening ANWR.

Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina cast the other two Republican votes, resulting in Haaland receiving 51 votes to confirm. Three Democratic senators chose not to vote.

Trump pledged in June to campaign against Murkowski’s reelection next year after Haaland issued her order blocking ANWR oil development.

“Senator Lisa Murkowski has cost the great people of Alaska billions and billions of dollars by voting for Radical Left Biden appointees, which in turn led to the revocation of ANWR drilling, which Alaskans have been fighting to see happen for six decades,” the 45th president said in a statement.

“I think she will be met very harshly by the Alaska voters,” Trump added, “and I will be there to campaign against her!”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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