Companies pull out of drilling leases at Arctic Wildlife Refuge

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Companies are backing out of controversial plans to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a number of animal species.

A company called Regenerate Alaska, which leased more than 23,000 acres in the refuge’s coastal plain at an auction held by the Trump administration last year, has since asked to have the lease rescinded, according to an Interior Department spokesperson.

The spokesperson said Thursday that the Bureau of Land Management last month rescinded and canceled the lease, and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue refunded the company’s bonus bid and first year rentals.

The sale last year, in which Regenerate had won its lease, earned much less than its Republican proponents had predicted.

The Biden administration has suspended leases at the refuge as it takes a second look at the Trump-era decision to open it up.

A Chevron spokesperson also confirmed Thursday that earlier this year the company pulled out of a lease on land owned by an Alaska Native corporation inside the refuge.

“Chevron’s decision to formally relinquish its legacy lease position was driven by the goal of prioritizing and focusing our exploration capital in a disciplined manner in the context of our entire portfolio of opportunities,” said company spokesperson Deena McMullen.

The Anchorage Daily News, which first reported the cancellations, also reported that Hilcorp Energy Company also pulled out of a lease on land owned by the Alaska Native corporation.

Leasing at the refuge is controversial because it is home to grizzly bears, polar bears, gray wolves and more than 200 species of birds. It also contains land considered sacred by the Gwich’in people.

Zack Budryk contributed.

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