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AIDEA Moves to Lease in ANWR

Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority

Alaska’s state-owned development corporation can now use up to $20,000,000 ($20 million) to buy oil leases in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The board of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority -- or AIDEA -- authorized the spending Wednesday night.

Board member Albert Fogle says resource development is Alaska’s future.

And that's the way to diversify our economy, a stronger resource development industry will trickle down into the other industries in Alaska.

The idea is that AIDEA would buy the drilling rights to tracts of land offered in the federal government’s upcoming lease sale. And then, at some point, it could partner with companies to do the actual drilling.

It’s a way for the state to lock in the rights to drill on the land in case no one else bids on the leases.

The move is controversial.

Former Governor Frank Murkowski is one person pushing for AIDEA to spend the money.

The future of the state, from the standpoint of oil production, is more production. You need more production. You need more leases.

But public comment during Wednesday’s meeting was dominated by people who oppose AIDEA buying the leases.

Here’s Julian Dan, a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

You are trying to patch a declining industry that the state of Alaska is already way too heavily invested in and that you should be focused on diversifying and serving the people of Alaska.

Some also raised concern that drilling in the refuge will harm the wildlife there... and the global climate.

Diane Preston of Fairbanks was among many who criticized AIDEA for not providing more time...for Alaskans to weigh in.

I think it's pretty unconscionable to have a short few days process for public comments on such an important issue, particularly during the pandemic and holiday week. I don't think that speaks well for you…. those of you who thought you could do this kind of under the radar.

AIDEA now has until 4 pm, Thursday, December 31 to submit its sealed bids for the oil leases.

The federal government will then open all of the offers on January 6th, and award the leases to the highest qualified bidders.


Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.