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CORRECTED-Arctic drilling plan in Alaska hits roadblock

Yereth Rosen
·2 min read

(Corrects paragraph 4 to say daily production is 500,000 bpd,not 500 bpd)

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Plans for seismicsurveys to help find oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refugehave fizzled due to a lack of protection for polar bears,according to a brief statement Saturday from the Department ofthe Interior.

The Kaktovik Inupiat Corp (KIC), the Native-owned companythat applied for permission to conduct the survey, failed to dothe required work to identify polar bear dens in the region thatwould be surveyed, Interior spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said inan emailed statement.

The likely demise of the seismic plan is the latest in aseries of setbacks that have deflated the decades-long ambitionto convert the refuge into an oil-producing frontier.

Alaska's oil production has been waning since the late1980s, when the state produced more than 2 million barrels ofcrude per day. Now its output is roughly 500,000 bpd.

Ex-President Donald Trump passed tax legislation in 2017that would have allowed for drilling in the ANWR, and thefederal government held a lease sale in the last days of hispresidency.

Identification of den sites was needed for the U.S. Fish andWildlife to grant KIC an incidental harassment authorization, apermit that would allow seismic operations near polar bears,Schwartz said.

“The company was advised today that their request is nolonger actionable,” she said in her statement.

KIC had planned, through contractor SAExploration, toconduct seismic surveys on 352,416 acres within the refuge’scoastal plain. The company missed a Feb. 13 deadline to performits aerial den-detection work, Schwartz said.

The Jan. 6 ANWR lease sale drew qualifying bids for only 11tracts, most from an Alaska state agency that was participatingas a backstop in case oil companies did not submit bids.

President Joseph Biden and Interior Secretary-designee DebHaaland oppose oil development in the refuge.(Writing by David Gaffen; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)