“The Trump administration is advancing plans to auction drilling rights in the U.S. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, who has vowed to block oil exploration in the rugged Alaska wilderness.
The Interior Department is set to issue a formal “call for nominations” as soon as Monday, kick-starting a final effort to get input on what tracts to auction inside the refuge’s 1.56-million-acre coastal plain. The plans were described by two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named detailing administration strategy.
Biden has pledged to permanently protect the refuge, saying drilling there would be a “big disaster.” But those efforts could be complicated if the Trump administration sells drilling rights first. Formally issued oil and gas leases on federal land are government contracts that can’t be easily yanked.”