During AIDEA’s board meeting on June 23, 2021, the members of the board approved a resolution authorizing a budget of up to $1.5 million on “pre-development” permitting and planning work for its oil leases on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. AIDEA is intent on establishing the permitting and authorizations required to start a 3-D seismic data program in 2022.

AIDEA has since announced its intent to award SAExploration (SAE) a contract to perform the permitting and planning work from August 2021 to October 2022. SAE will be subcontracting with Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation (KIC) for “community outreach and stakeholder relations”; ERC Alaska for “environmental and wildlife support”; and SALA, LLC for “permitting support services.”

AIDEA ignored federal suspension of Arctic Refuge lease with this, proposal to allocate $1.5M toward Arctic Refuge oil exploration. AIDEA was one of only 3 bidders on 11 tracts for the Arctic Refuge 1002 area leased early 2021 due to Trump’s 2017 Tax Act. AIDEA is proceeding on 7 of 9 tracts it won, with an approximate total financial responsibility of $16.8mil.

AIDEA disregarded overwhelming public testimony in opposition to bidding on Arctic Refuge leases at their December 23 board meeting, Anna Mackinnon said “public hearings are not votes on an issue” in reference to said meeting.

Beyond this additional $1.5 million to start the development process on the coastal plain, AIDEA already has an approximate total fiscal responsibility of $16.8 million so far on its multiple Arctic Refuge leases, under the name “CP Oil and Gas Development.” AIDEA has authorized up to $20 million in spending for this project from its Arctic Infrastructure Development Fund (“AIDF”). With 7 leases covering 365,775 acres, AIDEA was the most prominent of the scarce bidders (3 total) during the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lease sale held on January 6, 2021.

AIDEA’s actions coincide with an announcement of a supplemental environmental review from the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which oversees the oil and gas program for the coastal plain, due to deficiencies identified in the original environmental impact statement (EIS) produced at fast-pace during the previous federal administration. The Supplemental EIS will evaluate impacts to various surface resources including, but not limited to, caribou, polar bears, birds, vegetation, and surface waters including wetlands, as well as to other uses of the coastal plain, including subsistence uses. The Supplemental EIS will also affirmatively consider impacts from greenhouse gas emissions from any Leasing Program. Public comments on issues, impacts, and potential new alternatives to be analyzed may be submitted in writing until October 4, 2021

 SAE has previously submitted two failed applications to the Department of Interior for seismic in the Refuge.

See also “Since it filed the 2018 application, SAExploration has encountered legal and financial troubles. The company on Oct. 9 [2020] was charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly falsely inflating its revenues. The former chief executive, Jeffrey Hastings, was arrested in September in Anchorage and indicted, along with other former SAExploration officials, by federal prosecutors in New York for allegedly fraudulent activities. And the company, which is now under new leadership, filed for bankruptcy reorganization in August.”