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White House Allocates $4M For Alaska Oil Drilling Preps

The Trump administration has allocated US$4 million for construction work ahead of the start of oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Department of the Interior said in an announcement of a total US$50 million in new investments in the U.S. Fishery and Wildlife Service.

The money will be used for “Improvements to existing facilities and construction of outbuildings to support heightened levels of activity,” the statement said. In a report on the announcement, Reuters notes that the Arctic refuge is the largest in the U.S. wildlife refuge system, and also the wildest: there are no roads or buildings at all in the 19-million-acre expanse.

However, President Trump is pushing for a lease sale in the ANWR to be scheduled for as early as next year, despite fierce opposition from environmental groups, and this would require the building of some infrastructure.

In an email to Reuters, a spokeswoman for the department said the money will go into six projects “designed to improve and construct existing outbuildings, facilities and research operations.” The project will also include improvements to already existing facilities outside the wildlife refuge.

Alaska, which generates a substantial portion of its budget income from the oil and gas industry, is eager for the drilling to start. One oil company and two Alaska Native firms in May became the first to apply for a seismic survey permit in the wilderness but, the Washington Post reported at the time, the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Services rejected the application, finding it “inadequate”.

Now, however, the department’s spokeswoman, Heather Swift, told Reuters that no decision has been made on the application: “It was a draft application. The Department does not make decisions based upon early drafts,” she said.

Congress voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling last December, after forty years of often heated discussions of the issue.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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