Saturday, December 5, 2020




The Republican Senate in November of 2017 approved the $1.5 Trillion Tax Relief Bill skewed to assist the wealthy and major corporations but not without an offer to repay some major part of the cost of debt.


That payment would involve a deal: the reassignment of public lands as well as Native American lands as leasable to private oil, gas, and energy companies just before the end of Trump’s first term in office. 


Those lands, the “Coastal Plain” of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge represent nearly 8 percent of the 19 million acres of publicly owned land that is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).  In addition, the Trump Tax Relief Bill also provided subsidies for oil and gas industries, cuts in federal investments for clean energy development, and the lessening of plans to control climate change.  But there’s more: Trump’s administration has added to the $8 Billion gas and oil companies already receive in tax benefits as well as reducing royalty rates to be paid to the U.S government for use of lands, etc. 


The “coastal plain” is nearly 1.5 million acres, but it is also the environmental and biological heart of the ANWR, supplying life to the migrations of thousands of caribou, providing safe denning for hundreds of polar bears, protecting endangered avian species, and maintaining large salmon resources.  And the home of indigenous peoples who depend on those resources for their culture and survival.  


Trump started the process for selling oil rights in the coastal plains just after his election loss on November 17th.  The procedure included a 30 day window for oil companies to confidentially tell the government which pieces of land they would like to include in a possible lease.  


Like a car, it’s a lease that ends with an option to buy and own.  Or, the companies can turn it back over to the Native Americans after they've “developed it (aka mutilated) beyond recognition.  But, if profitable, the companies can purchase it and carry on.


Although distasteful, this is not really very new.  Land reform deals where Roman patricians gained financially over plebes through swindles of acreage and the emperor over those same patricians reach back to 500 BC, but oil companies have been salivating over this opportunity in the coastal plain of ANWR for decades.


Patterns of seismic blasting the '84 and '85.

Between 1984 and 1985, more than 20 oil companies found means and method to survey the lands under the coastal plains, leaving scars and pockmarks that lasted many years.  Findings were unclear, but in 1986, Chevron and BP got the opportunity to spend $40 million and drill down 3 miles to find the answer, an answer no one is allowed to know. The well was called KIC-1.  


We’ll never know if there was oil or not – unless BP or Chevron (now Standard Oil) give away their position when bidding on a lease. Through the work of their hordes of lawyers and subsequent court filings, the two companies were able to muzzle the Alaskan Department of Natural Resources from releasing any of the two companies’ data.   


As for Alaska?  A Republican state without income or sales taxes and dependent upon its 50% of all revenue from mandated lease sales, despite its effects upon its indigenous people?  They can easily look the other way as the political process continues.


If you were wondering what another four years of Trump might look like, this is just one small sample of what he would do and is doing to burn it down before leaving an office in shambles for the next President.  President Biden may find his hands somewhat tied if Trump and his gang can get the leases finalized before he is forced to leave office on the 20th of January, but Biden does control the permitting process afterward and the future costs enough to make even BP or Chevron take pause.    

Let's hope he does.


Resources: Center for American Progress and NRDC




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