The Trump administration has suffered a major blow to its environmental policy rollbacks. On Wednesday, the open bid for oil companies to drill in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge came to an end, without any big oil companies placing a bid. Interestingly, only three bidders expressed interest in the leases, one of the bidders being the state of Alaska. The other two bidders were small companies based in Alaska.

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Nine of the coastal plane land parcels issued for lease did not receive any bidders, except for a state-owned economic development corporation. By the end of the bidding period on Wednesday, almost half of the land issued had not received a single bid.

Related: Trump administration furthers Arctic drilling plan

“They held the lease in ANWR — that is history-making. That will be recorded in the history books and people will talk about it,” said Larry Persily, an observer of the fossil fuels industry. “But no one showed up.”

Most oil experts believe that the slow uptake of the parcels can be attributed to the global recession, a drop in oil prices and the continued pressure by environmental groups against drilling. Persily explained that even though politicians may be interested in pursuing oil in reserved areas, many oil companies are no longer interested in such a risky business.

At the conclusion of the bid, the lease had raised $14.4 million. Half of all the bids came from the economic development corporation, which does not participate in oil drilling. The company has never been involved in the oil exploration business.

“I laughed out loud. It was a joke. A joke to the American people,” said Desirée Sorenson-Groves, director of the Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign. “I’ll tell you, I have a message to those who bid today, there were only three. But here’s the message: ‘You will never ever drill in the Arctic Refuge. We’ll stop you.'”


Image via Alexis Bonogofsky / USFWS