In an aggressive move that angered Republicans on Wednesday, the Biden administration canceled the seven remaining oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reversed sales agreements preserved under the Trump administration and proposed Provide stronger protections for development in large swaths of the National Reserve. Oil Reserves – Alaska.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration approved the Willow Oil project in the oil reserve, a large ConocoPhillips project in Alaska that could produce as much as 180,000 barrels per day of oil from Alaska, while the Interior Department canceled these leases. -Rich North Slope. Protection is proposed for more than 20,000 square miles (51,800 square kilometers) within the Western Arctic Reserve.
Some critics who said Willow’s approval ran counter to Biden’s pledge to address climate change applauded Wednesday’s announcement. But they say more can be done. Litigation over the approval of the Willow project is still pending.
“Alaska is home to many of America’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders and culturally significant regions. As the climate crisis warms the Arctic more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, we have a responsibility to protect this precious place for people of all ages.” region,” Biden said in a statement.
Biden said his actions “satisfy the urgency of the climate crisis” and will “protect our lands and waters for future generations.”
Alaska’s Republican governor condemned Biden’s move and threatened to sue. At least one Democratic lawmaker said the decision could hurt indigenous communities in remote areas where oil development is an important economic driver.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who has been criticized for his role in approving the Willow project, said Wednesday that “no one has the right to drill for oil in one of the most sensitive areas on Earth.” However, in 2017 A law in 2024 requires leases to be sold again by the end of 2024. Administration officials said they intended to abide by the law.
The Biden administration also announced proposed rules aimed at providing stronger protections for new leases and developments in parts of the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve that are designated as special areas of wildlife, survival, scenic or other value. The proposal is still subject to public comment. Willow is within a conservation area but is not expected to be affected by the proposed rule.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s 1.5 million-acre (600,000-hectare) coastal plain along the Beaufort Sea on the northeastern edge of Alaska is considered sacred by the Gwichin people, who live here The reindeer migrate and come to the place to give birth. The plains have hills, rivers, small lakes and tundra. Migratory birds and reindeer traverse the plains, providing habitat for wildlife such as polar bears and wolves.
Alaska’s political leaders — including some Democrats — have long pushed to allow oil and gas drilling in the reserve, in part because of the economic impact it has on indigenous communities in an area with few other job opportunities. Many of the same voices are urging Biden to approve Project Willow for the same reasons.
“I am deeply dismayed that ANWR’s lease has been revoked,” said U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat, using a common shorthand for shelter. “This administration has shown with the approval of the Willow project that it has the ability to listen to Alaskans, and those most affected by this decision are some of the Inuit North Slope communities. I will continue to support them and Alaska The ability to explore and develop natural resources.”
In 2017, Alaska’s congressional delegation successfully added language to the federal tax code requiring the U.S. government to conduct two lease sales in the region by the end of 2024.
Drilling opponents on Wednesday urged Congress to repeal the lease clause in the 2017 law and permanently ban drilling on the coastal plain.
“The importance of today’s Arctic Conservation Bulletin cannot be overstated,” said Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams. “The Arctic Reserve is once again exempt from oil leases. Our climate is safer and there is renewed hope for permanent protection of one of America’s last wild landscapes.”
Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska denounced Biden’s actions as the latest blow in what he called the “War in Alaska.”
Two other leases issued as part of the first sale of the shelter in January 2021 were previously abandoned by the small companies that held them due to legal disputes and uncertainty over drilling plans.
After taking office, Biden issued an executive order to temporarily suspend activities related to the leasing program while the Secretary of the Interior reviews the program. Harland ordered a new environmental review later in 2021 after concluding that the Trump-era leasing program had “multiple legal flaws.” Haaland suspended activity related to the loan scheme pending new analysis.
A draft environmental review was released on Wednesday.
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state-owned company that won seven leases in the 2021 sale, sued the moratorium. But a federal judge recently found that the Interior Department’s delay in the new review was not unreasonable.
The company was awarded the lease to retain drilling rights in the event that the oil companies would not come forward. Major oil companies did not participate in the sale after prominent banks announced they would not finance Arctic oil and gas projects.
Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, thanked the government for canceling the lease, but also sounded a warning.
“We know that our holy land is only temporarily safe from oil and gas development,” she said. “We urge administration and congressional leaders to abolish the oil and gas program and permanently protect the Arctic Reserve.”