WASHINGTON—An Alaskan state-owned agency was the biggest bidder for oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, federal officials said Wednesday, as they disclosed auction results that bring oil drillers a step closer to securing access to the pristine 19-million-acre wilderness.
The U.S. government is in line to collect more than $14 million from high bids in the auction, the vast majority of the sum from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
No major or even midsize oil companies filed valid bids for the controversial rights, federal officials said. This raises questions about whether drilling will ever happen despite efforts from the Trump administration and approval by Congress.
“It is my hope that…this action will make history for generations to come,” said Katharine MacGregor, deputy secretary of the Interior Department. “The long-term royalties of production will have a positive impact on the state budget, all Alaskans and the federal treasury.”
The federal government’s next step will be to finalize leases with these bidders, a process that often takes months but which the Trump administration is likely to try to finish before it is set to relinquish power in two weeks.