Petroleum News – Excerpt from article by Steve Sutherlin
As the second quarter of 2020 rolls by, the likelihood of a federal oil and gas lease sale this year in the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is becoming more remote.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management released its Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program Final Environmental Impact Statement Sept. 12, 2019, leading to anticipation that a sale might be scheduled later that year.
But BLM has not yet issued a record of decision on the final EIS yet, BLM Alaska Communications Director Lesli J. Ellis-Wouters told Petroleum News May 5.
“The lease sale will not happen until we issue that record of decision,” she said. “I don’t have any information on when it could possibly be signed; I do know that after we do sign the record of decision we would be posting a notice in the Federal Register announcing the lease sale.”
Ellis-Wouters indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic may be contributing to the delay.
“There’s really no normal timeline between an EIS and a record of decision,” She said. “It’s normal to take time in between those two processes, but I think there’s probably a lot more world happenings going on these days than had been anticipated.”
In a Jan. 14 Washington Post story, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the Trump administration is trying to make its leasing plan legally ironclad, while completing a lease sale before the 2020 election.
“I want to make sure that record of decision is a record that can be well defended,” Bernhardt was quoted as saying. “There have been issues raised during the development … that I want to make sure that I feel very confident that we’ve adequately addressed.”
The 2017 budget bill which opened exploration in the 1002 area orders the feds to conduct two lease sales of 400,000 acres each by the end of 2024.