A conservation group party to a lawsuit against the U.S. government said bids for oil and gas drilling in Alaska's wilderness are "disgusting." File photo by David Rasmus/Shutterstock
Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Bids for oil and gas drilling in Alaska open Wednesday in what a vocal opponent of the Trump administration said was a "disgusting" climate assault.
Bidders get a chance to vie for options in 900 parcels covering 10.3 million acres of Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the area is "unspoiled wilderness," home to species like grizzly bears and is the largest public swath of land in the United States and it's going to the oil and gas industry.
"Trump is auctioning off our wildlife and a livable climate to the highest bidders," Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the group, said in a statement emailed to UPI. "It's disgusting."
With naval forces switching from coal to oil at the early part of the 20th century, the U.S. government established the area, situated west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as a petroleum reserve but left it relatively untouched until the 1990s. Federal provisions limit exploration in areas deemed to hold historical value and those with significant fish and wildlife populations.
Monsell's group is party to a lawsuit filed this week against the U.S. government for stripping protections from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. Heidi McIntosh, an attorney for advocacy group Earthjustice, said the decision was "a terrible violation of America's public lands and heritage."
Auctions in the Alaska petroleum area are relatively routine. Lease information provided by the Bureau of Land Management calls on the lessee and relevant parties to respect the environment.
"The lessee will be required to protect these identified resource values and to operate in a manner which minimizes environmental impacts to physical, biological, cultural and aesthetic resources," part of the document reads.
A 2011 report from the U.S. Geological Survey found the mean potential for technically recoverable and undiscovered oil was 895 million barrels. For gas, the mean estimate was 52.8 trillion cubic feet. The lack of transit infrastructure could complicate production efforts in the area.
Alaska's economy is under pressure and the state government has declared a series of Asian investment efforts and oil and gas considerations under President Donald Trump a success.