The Biden Administration recently announced plans to cancel all oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which had been approved by the Trump administration just weeks before Biden took office. During his campaign, Joe Biden vowed to permanently protect the Refuge from drilling, which angered Alaska leaders and many others.
“The department is notifying lessees that it is suspending oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge, pending the review, to determine whether the leases should be reaffirmed, voided, or subject to additional mitigation measures,” the Interior Department said in a statement.
According to reports by the U.S Bureau of Land Management, the Interior Department halted the leases on the grounds after a number of lawsuits had been filed by environmental groups, stating that the drilling would endanger the polar bears and caribou that populate the 19.6 million acre-refuge. They said that the directional drilling and icy roads would directly impact the environment and risk to wildlife. They said that the Trump administration had not followed proper procedures for the auction and there needs to be a new environmental review of the land.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland released an order to “initiate a comprehensive environmental analysis” to review the potential impacts of the oil and gas program, along with legal deficiencies in the current leasing program.
President Trump opened the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain for oil and gas development in 2017 in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Congress approved of the oil and gas program in the refuge at the urging of Alaska’s congressional delegation after decades of failed attempts. Alaska leaders have long sought oil production from the 1.6 million acre plain.
The Justice Department, however, has stated that opponents of the Alaska project were “cherry-picking” the federal agency records to claim violations of environmental law in order to halt certain construction activities. Environmental groups even sued the Trump administration when it had originally been approved and an appeals court agreed to limit construction activity. This ended on Dec. 1 while the underlying case continued.
The Trump Administration eventually held the Jan 6. lease sale, but it no longer produced interest after major banks announced they would not finance new oil and gas projects due to climate change concerns.
Former member of the Trump Interior Department and energy policy attorney Marcella Burke said that she found Biden’s move to halt drilling ‘unexpected’ and that the Dem’s animosity towards fossil fuels have made it impossible for the industry to survive.
“Since the Carter administration, whether ANWR can be leased is determined by which party is in the White House. Developers in ANWR assume there will be a policy shift between Democrat and Republican administrations. But it’s not permanent, assuming there will someday be another party in the White House,” Burke said.
Executive director of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority Alan Weitzner said he was ‘very disappointed’ with the decision made by the Biden Administration. When asked if a lawsuit was going to be filed, Weitzner said that it was too early to tell what the agency will do next but that they will hopefully attract private partners to explore for oil in the refuge.
“This is a major move the Biden administration has taken, and we’re trying to digest it. We remain very focused on the rights we have under those leases,” Weitzner said.
The U.S Geological Survey estimated that the plain could hold billions of barrels of oil and that a major oil discovery would boost jobs, state revenues, and keep oil flowing in the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline. North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower even said that efforts to stop drilling in the refuge counteract the local support for the project.
It’s hard to think of even one-Pro American thing that the administration has done in the first few months of office. Trump wanted to make America energy independent and Biden is quickly raising the price of gas while killing American jobs and importing oil from Iran. That’s Biden’s America.