Updated February 21, 2018
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) Provisions in
P.L. 115-97, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L. 115-97), enacted in
December 2017, included provisions establishing an oil and
gas program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
(ANWR or the Refuge). ANWR consists of 19 million
acres in northeast Alaska, administered by the Fish and
Wildlife Service (FWS) in the Department of the Interior
(Figure 1). Initially established as a national wildlife range
in 1960, the area was expanded and established as a refuge
by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of
1980 (ANILCA; 16 U.S.C. §§668dd note, 3141 et seq.).
ANILCA designated a portion of the Refuge as wilderness
and, in Section 1002, required a study of another portion—
the 1.57-million-acre Coastal Plain (also referred to as the
1002 Area)—to assess its wildlife and potential impacts of
oil and gas development. The Coastal Plain is viewed as an
onshore oil prospect, with a 2005 mean estimate by the U.S.
Geological Survey of 7.7 billion barrels of technically
recoverable oil on federal lands (10.4 billion barrels
including Native lands and adjacent waters). It also is a
center of activity for caribou and other wildlife, with Native
subsistence uses and critical habitat for polar bears under
the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. §§1531-1544).
Section 1003 of ANILCA prohibited oil and gas
development in the Refuge unless authorized by an act of
Congress. The enactment of P.L. 115-97 culminated a
decades-long congressional debate over whether to
authorize development of the Coastal Plain’s mineral
resources or to continue prohibiting development to protect
biological and subsistence values.
The ANWR provisions in P.L. 115-97 responded to a
reconciliation instruction to the Senate Committee on
Energy and Natural Resources in the FY2018 concurrent
resolution on the budget (H.Con.Res. 71). The committee
was instructed to report changes in laws within its
jurisdiction to reduce the deficit by not less than $1 billion
for the FY2018-FY2027 period. The Congressional Budget
Office (CBO) estimated that the ANWR provisions in Title
II of the law, along with other oil and gas provisions in that
title, would increase net offsetting receipts by about $1.1
billion during this period.
Other bills related to ANWR’s Coastal Plain were
introduced in the 115th Congress prior to enactment of P.L.
115-97. H.R. 1889 and S. 820 would establish the Coastal
Plain as wilderness, while H.R. 49 and S. 49 propose oil
and gas leasing programs for the Coastal Plain that are
similar but not identical to the program mandated by P.L.
115-97. This CRS product focuses on P.L. 115-97.
Figure 1. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Source: FWS, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan, Introduction, April 2015, at https://www.fws.gov/home/arctic-ccp/.
Edited by CRS.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) Provisions in P.L. 115-97, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
Establishment of Oil and Gas Program
P.L. 115-97 directs the Secretary of the Interior, acting
through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to
establish and administer a competitive program for the
leasing, development, production, and transportation of oil
and gas in and from ANWR’s Coastal Plain. Although the
Refuge as a whole is administered by FWS, under the
Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (MLA; 30 U.S.C. §§181 et
seq.), BLM manages onshore federal energy and mineral
resources, not only on its own lands but also on those of
other federal agencies. The law further provides that
Section 1003 of ANILCA, which prohibits oil and gas
development in ANWR unless authorized by Congress,
shall not apply to the Refuge’s Coastal Plain.
50% of revenues derived from oil and gas leases on the
Coastal Plain (including royalties, rents, and bonus bids) be
distributed to the State of Alaska and that the remaining
50% be deposited into the U.S. Treasury as miscellaneous
receipts. This split differs from that established by the
MLA, under which the State of Alaska typically receives
90% of the revenue from federal onshore oil and gas leases
within the state, with 10% deposited in the Treasury as
miscellaneous receipts. All other states receive 50% of the
revenues from leases within their states (minus a 2% costsharing deduction), while 40% are deposited in the
Reclamation Fund (which funds certain federally owned
and operated western water and power projects) and 10%
are deposited in the Treasury as miscellaneous receipts.
Schedule of Lease Sales
ANILCA stated four purposes for which ANWR was
established and is to be managed, including
(1) conservation of fish and wildlife populations and
habitats, (2) fulfillment of U.S. international fish and
wildlife treaty obligations, (3) providing the opportunity for
continued subsistence use by local residents, and (4)
ensuring water quality and quantity within the Refuge. P.L.
115-97 amends ANILCA to add, as a fifth purpose of the
Refuge, “to provide for an oil and gas program on the
Coastal Plain.” Under the National Wildlife Refuge System
Administration Act of 1966, as amended (16 U.S.C.
§668dd), ANILCA Section 304, and regulations at 43
C.F.R. Section 3101.5-3 for Alaskan refuges, FWS
undertakes compatibility determinations to assess whether
proposed refuge activities are compatible with the purposes
for which a refuge was established as well as the mission of
the National Wildlife Refuge System as a whole. The
addition of oil and gas development as a refuge purpose
thus affects the context for a compatibility determination,
but it is not yet clear how FWS would approach
compatibility for oil and gas activities.
The law requires at least two area-wide lease sales in the
Refuge’s Coastal Plain. An initial lease sale is required
within four years of the law’s enactment, and a second lease
sale is required within seven years of enactment.
Separately, other provisions require that at least two lease
sales be conducted within 10 years of the law’s enactment.
Each ANWR lease sale must offer at least 400,000 acres
and must include those areas with the highest potential for
discovery of hydrocarbons.
Oil and Gas Program Management
The law directs BLM to manage the oil and gas program on
the Refuge’s Coastal Plain in a manner similar to the
administration of lease sales under the Naval Petroleum
Reserves Production Act of 1976 (NPRPA, 42 U.S.C.
§§6501 et seq.) and associated regulations, except as
otherwise provided. The NPRPA provided for competitive
oil and gas leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve in
Alaska (NPR-A), subject to certain conditions and
restrictions. The regulatory framework for the NPR-A (43
C.F.R. §§3130, 3137, 3150, 3152, and 3160) includes
requirements for leasing terms, bonding, environmental
obligations, and many other activities associated with oil
and gas development.
Revenues and Royalties
The MLA requires royalty payments of at least 12.5% of
the value of production for oil and gas leases on federal
lands. P.L. 115-97 sets the royalty rate for oil and gas leases
in ANWR’s Coastal Plain at 16.67%. The law directs that
Surface Development and Rights-of-Way
The law requires the Secretary of the Interior to grant any
easements or rights-of-way necessary to carry out the bill’s
provisions for exploration, development, production, and
transportation in the Coastal Plain. It directs the Secretary
to authorize up to 2,000 surface acres of federal land on the
Coastal Plain to be covered by production and support
facilities. (This 2,000-acre limit does not appear to apply to
Native surface lands on the Coastal Plain owned by the
Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation or through individual Native
allotments.) The law does not require the development
facilities to be concentrated in a single 2,000-acre area. The
law specifies that “airstrips and any area covered by gravel
berms or piers in support of pipelines” shall be included in
the 2,000-acre limit. It is unclear whether other potential
disturbances—for instance, temporary roads or areas under
a pipeline that might be temporarily disturbed during
construction—would be included within the limit.
For additional information, see CRS Report RL33872,
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): An Overview, by
Laura B. Comay, Michael Ratner, and R. Eliot Crafton;
CRS Report RL32838, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
(ANWR): Votes and Legislative Actions Since the 95th
Congress, by Laura B. Comay; and CRS Report R40806,
Energy Projects on Federal Lands: Leasing and
Authorization, by Adam Vann.
Laura B. Comay, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) Provisions in P.L. 115-97, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
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