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Alaska Refuge May Be the Most Contested Land in the U.S.

The National Geographic [includes photos and graphics]: Congress voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Here’s what’s at stake for America’s wild frontier.

“…the current U.S. administration is eager to proceed with the two lease sales, of at least 400,000 acres each, ordered by the new law. Assuming various regulatory and legal hurdles can be cleared, Alaska and the U.S. government will split the proceeds, which the Congressional Budget Office puts at $2.2 billion. Recent lease prices suggest that’s wildly optimistic. Alaska, a state with neither a sales tax nor an income tax, needs every dime. The oil and gas industry funds 90 percent of the state budget—plus an annual dividend of over $1,000 to each Alaskan—mostly through a tax on North Slope oil flowing through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). Since oil prices plummeted in 2014, the state has suffered multibillion-dollar budget deficits. More ominously, in spite of a recent uptick, the amount of oil oozing through the pipeline has fallen steadily since 1988. A 2012 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that if oil prices stayed low, the pipeline would shut down by 2026.

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