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Biden administration suspends oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Do you support or oppose oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s ANWR?
By Eric Revell, Countable News
What’s the story?
- The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it is suspending oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) Coastal Plain on Alaska’s North Slope.
- The Dept. of the Interior (DOI) is suspending active leases pending a review under the National Environmental Policy Analysis (NEPA), which will determine whether the leases that have already been made should be reaffirmed, voided, or subject to additional mitigation measures. The review will focus on the potential impact of the oil and gas leasing program along with what it alleges are “legal deficiencies in the current leasing program’s environmental review under NEPA.”
- Oil and gas leasing in ANWR was authorized by a Republican Congress and the Trump administration in 2017 through the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act after years of advocacy by proponents of energy development in the area. It required that at least two lease sales be made in the non-wilderness Coastal Plain by 2024.
- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a subagency of DOI, began the program after the completion of a NEPA environmental impact statement and administered the first lease sale on January 6, 2021, when it issued 10-year leases on nine tracts covering more than 430,000 acres within the 1.5 million acre portion of ANWR opened for energy development (ANWR as a whole is about 19.3 million acres).
- Biden allies in Congress praised the move, as Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) tweeted, “We must focus on building a clean energy future so we can protect beautiful, sacred spaces like #ANWR from being exploited for oil and gas.” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) called the suspension “a big win in our fight to save ANWR” and added, “The Trump admin spent years trying to open up these pristine wilderness areas to oil & gas drilling. Let’s make these protections permanent!”
- Members of Alaska’s delegation to Congress and the state’s governor released statements opposing the suspension of the oil and gas leasing program, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), who were two of the four GOP senators to support the confirmation of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who introduced Haaland ― his former colleague in the House ― at her confirmation hearing.
- Murkowski said the Biden administration’s actions “are not unexpected but are outrageous nonetheless” given the environmental safeguards for development and added that it undermines U.S. energy security:
“The oil and gas leasing program established by the Trump Administration meets the legal mandates required by Congress including imposing a framework with a range of environmental safeguards that are successfully guiding production elsewhere in northern Alaska. This action serves no other purpose other than to obstruct Alaska’s economy and put our energy security at great risk.”
- Young, who is the dean of the House as the chamber’s longest-serving member, said he is “extremely dismayed” by the Biden administration’s decision to freeze ANWR leases and said:
“Make no mistake; this suspension is a grave one, not only for those employed by Alaska’s energy industry but also for the Alaska Native community of Kaktovik. Despite being the primary stakeholders involving policy affecting their land, the pro-development voices of the Kaktovik Iñupiat continue to be ignored by those who believe they know better than the people who actually live in ANWR. I know that Alaskans can responsibly balance energy development with environmental conservation; I suspect that deep down, President Biden knows this as well, given his 1980 vote for ANILCA which set aside a portion of ANWR for oil extraction. When President Carter signed ANILCA into law, Alaskans were promised the right to drill on the Coastal Plain, making this Executive Action well outside the original scope of Congressional intent.”
(Photo Credit: US Department of State via Flickr / Public Domain)
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