JUNEAU, Alaska, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Alaska's government said it was able to award oil and gas drilling licenses after clarifying authority near the border of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources said it awarded two licenses in the Beaufort Sea pending since 2011 after assessing the western boundary of the ANWR.
"I'm pleased that we are now able to award these leases to the 2011 bidders and clarify the acreage that is available for oil and gas exploration in this highly-prospective region," Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash said in a statement Wednesday.
The DNR's decision stems for a state assertion that it owns the 3,000 acres of coastal land that it says was improperly mapped as part of the arctic refuge area. The state said uncertainty over the legal demarcation has created obstacles for authorities trying to administer leases.
The leases were awarded to private land investors.
Leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives responded by calling on the Department of Interior to "protect the biological heart of the refuge from oil and gas exploration and drilling."