US federal government asks oil companies to nominate drilling parcels in Alaska’s Arctic refuge

The "call for nominations" is scheduled to be published on Tuesday.

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The Canning River in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is seen from the air. (Katrina Liebich / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Trump administration on Monday issued a request to energy companies to identify what specific land areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be offered for sale, according to a government document.

The Department of Interior said the nominations and any comments on the land tracts must be received 30 days after the document is published in the Federal Register. The “call for nominations” is scheduled to be published on Tuesday, but a version was posted on Monday.

[Trump administration pushes to sell oil leases in Alaska’s Arctic refuge before Biden inauguration]

The move is a key step toward pulling off a sale of oil drilling leases in a pristine area of the Arctic before Democrat Joe Biden, who opposes energy development there, becomes president.

Drilling had been banned in ANWR for decades before Republican-led tax legislation signed in 2017 removed that ban. Lawmakers in Alaska have long pushed to open up the ecologically sensitive area to oil and gas exploration.

Following the 30-day period after the call for nominations, the government would have to issue a notice for an impending lease sale. The sale would take place 30 days after that, just before Biden’s expected inauguration on Jan. 20.

Reporting by Nichola Groom and Jonathan Oatis.