The Interior Department is expected this week to unveil its final five-year plan for offshore oil and natural gas lease sales and both industry and environmental sources believe proposed Arctic sales are more likely to be eliminated due to Republican Donald Trump's electoral victory.
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Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is expected to unveil the final plan for offshore lease sales between 2017 and 2022 as early as Wednesday, according to sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
BOEM unveiled the proposed plan in March and while a planned sale for the Atlantic included in an earlier version was removed, it still included 10 Gulf of Mexico sales, a 2020 Beaufort sale, a 2021 Cook Inlet sale and a 2022 Chukchi sale.
The Obama administration has faced intense pressure from environmentalists to cut the Beaufort and Chukchi sales from the program.
Interior spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment Friday and the White House has given very little indication on whether it plans to cut these Arctic sales from the five-year plan.
During an October 25 Arctic Energy Center event, Amy Pope, vice chair of the White House Arctic Executive Steering Community, said that "responsibly developing Arctic oil and gas resources aligns with United States' 'all-of-the-above' approach to developing domestic energy resources."
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But the administration stance on Arctic oil and gas development may have shifted following Trump's victory on Tuesday, sources said.
Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic challenger, was publicly opposed to Arctic drilling and was not expected to offer any Beaufort or Chukchi sales even though they were scheduled in the plan during her time in office.
But Trump has called for dramatically expanding the federal lands and waters open for oil and gas drilling and may look to scrap a plan that leaves out the Arctic.
A finalized lease sale program can be amended to include new sales, but the process would take an estimated two to three years due to all the statutory requirements involved.
During that two- to three-year timeframe as the program is being amended, no offshore lease sales that were not included in the original lease plan can be held, likely complicating any push to expand the program.
Five Gulf of Mexico sales are planned between 2017 and 2019 under BOEM's proposed program.
The required environmental analysis and public comment period is aimed at making it difficult for a new administration or Congress to alter the offshore program.
In a statement Friday, Lucas Frances, spokesperson for the Arctic Energy Center, said Trump's victory Tuesday "does create another element of uncertainty around the decision."
"There's already been plenty of speculation that the White House is considering a permanent ban in the Arctic through a national monuments designation, and it appears even more feasible with a Trump administration coming in," Frances said.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has introduced legislation to stop the use of such designations, made under the Antiquities Act, to protect certain lands and waters from development.
In August, Obama expanded a national marine monument off the coast of Hawaii to cover nearly 600,000 square miles of land and sea.
Obama has used national monument designations to protect about 550 million acres of federal land and water.
In addition, Congressional Democrats and environmental advocates have been pushing the Obama administration to use a federal provision, known as Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, to permanently bar drilling in the US Arctic.
At least five presidents, including Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, have used Section 12(a) to withdraw areas from being leased for oil and gas development.
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