Dermot Cole

I wrote a week ago about the failure of the Trump administration to schedule a lease sale in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge when it had plenty of time to do so. Trump could have held the sale in 2019 or 2020, long before the presidential election.

I also wrote a week ago that Trump might try a going-out-of-business sale even though his time is up.

“I guess Trump could try to squeeze a lease sale in before departing office in January—ignoring public notice deadlines to push something through—but what responsible company is going to bid serious money on leases that President-elect Biden promises to stop?”

Companies will have to risk money with the knowledge that the stars are misaligned. Everything points to bargain-basement bids and a future of administrative delays, court fights and bad publicity for any company that participates.

It turns out that Trump will try to squeeze in a lease sale, which may take place the day before Trump leaves the White House for good.

This going-out-of-business sale has all the credibility of Rudy’s seminar at Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Add it to the Trump catalog of Pyrrhic victories around the world, all of them as lasting as a degree from Trump University.

Had Trump acted earlier, he could have made an ANWR lease sale legally defensible. As it is, the sale is indefensible—financially, politically and legally.

A lack of industry enthusiasm for ANWR oil leasing—despite the nonstop boomer talk by Alaska politicians and industry promoters—probably led to this delay. The Alaska delegation, which has long regarded ANWR oil leases as the Holy Grail, is pretending that’s Trump’s belated action calls for a victory dance instead of weeping.

“While we face headwinds, from global economic conditions to an organized effort to prevent leasing, the department’s rigorous environmental review has provided a solid framework to ensure responsible exploration and development,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in the press release.

The “headwinds” include the low price of oil, the opposition by banks to provide financing, the environmental risks of climate change, the desire by many Americans to preserve the refuge, the high costs of ANWR development, the certainty that any company that bids will pay a high price in negative publicity and the rock-bottom bids that will be hard to justify. Add to all that the mess Trump has made of the schedule.

On Tuesday, Trump’s Interior Department officially began the 30-day period for oil companies and members of the public to nominate tracts in ANWR that they might bid on. Comments are due by Dec. 17, but it’s already clear that the process is a sham and the comments will not be reviewed or analysis.

Chad Padgett, state Bureau of Land Management director and former employee of Rep. Don Young, will not take time to review whatever information comes to light. Commenters will offer views on which tracts should be excluded and why and which ones should be reduced and why.

Padgett, a member of what columnist Michael Carey calls the “Don Young Industry,” the “lobbyists, lawyers, consultants, political operatives, and other beholden deadbeats” in Young’s orbit, won’t act in a responsible manner because time doesn’t allow it.

“Receiving input from industry on which tracts to make available for leasing is vital in conducting a successful lease sale,” Padgett says in his press release.

He forgot to make the phony claim that he wants public input, not just industry input, during the next month.

Mail comments to: Chad Padgett, state Director, Bureau of Land Management, Alaska State Office, 222 West 7th Avenue, Mailstop 13, Anchorage, AK 99513-7504.

After the comment period ends, Padgett will simply announce, either Dec. 17 or Dec. 18, that a sale will take place.

BLM will announce the minimum bid per acre required and other key sale conditions, all without having bothered to review the public comments submitted by Dec. 17.

After that, the law requires giving 30-days notice before a lease sale after the public comment period.

Jan. 18 is probably out because it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And Jan. 20 is probably out because it is Inauguration Day. That means a lease sale may be on Jan. 19, the last day of the administration.

If you want to set yourself up for failure, this is a good way to do it.

The Trump administration may try to act on Jan. 19 to actually issue the leases, without bothering with the rigorous review required to protect the national interest and make sure everything is in order.

This is bumbling of a high order, the latest example of incompetence from the Trump administration that will make it easier for the Biden administration to reject the ANWR lease bids out of hand.

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