The Interior Department will suspend oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that the Trump administration approved just weeks before President Biden took office, according to a report on Tuesday.
The Trump administration began auctioning off the leases in the refuge’s coastal plains in early January but the announcement wasn’t made public until Jan. 19, former President Donald Trump’s final full day in office.
Officials briefed on the decision told the Washington Post that the Interior Department would halt the leases on the grounds that the Trump administration didn’t follow proper procedures for the auction.
The action is likely to prompt another round of legal battles.
A number of lawsuits have already been filed by environmental groups following the Trump Interior Department’s announcement last August that it planned to open up the 1.56 million-acre strip of land along the Beaufort Sea coast for lease sales.
Environmental groups, including the National Audubon Society and Friends of the Earth, said the drilling would endanger the polar bears and caribou that populate the region.
The report said the sale of 11 tracts in the refuge netted about $14 million — even as estimates at the time predicted they would fetch nearly a billion dollars.
Only two companies put forward competitive bids and the rest came from the state of Alaska.
In the end, the land sold for the minimum price of $25 an acre.