The Biden administration on Tuesday suspended oil and gas leases at Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reversing a drilling program approved by the Trump administration and reviving a political battle over a remote region that is home to polar bears and other wildlife. There is home—and a rich reserve oil.
The order of the Department of the Interior is as follows: temporary moratorium Oil and gas lease activities imposed by President Joe Biden on his first day in office. Biden’s January 20 executive order suggested a new environmental review is needed to address potential legal loopholes in the drilling program approved by the Trump administration under a 2017 law enacted by Congress.
After conducting a required review, Interior said it “identified defects in the underlying record of the decision supporting the leases, including the analysis of a reasonable range of alternatives required under the National Environmental Policy Act, a baseline environmental law”. deficiency is included”.
The remote, 7.9 million hectare shelter is home to polar bears, caribou, snowy owls and other wildlife, including migratory birds from six continents. Republicans and the oil industry have long been trying to open up the oil-rich refuge, considered sacred by the indigenous Gwich’in, to drilling. Democrats, environmental groups and some Alaskan indigenous tribes are trying to block it.
Former President Bill Clinton vetoed a GOP plan to allow drilling in the refuge in 1995, and the two sides have been fighting over the area ever since.
The US Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, conducted a lease sale for the refuge’s coastal plain on January 6, two weeks before Biden took office. Eight days later, the agency signed leases for nine areas totaling about 1,770 square kilometres. However, the issuance of the leases was not publicly announced until January 19, former President Donald Trump’s last full day in office.
Biden has opposed drilling in the area, and environmental groups are pushing for permanent protection, which Biden called for during the presidential campaign.
The administration’s action to suspend the leases comes after officials frustrated environmental groups last week Defending the Trump Administration’s Decision To approve a major oil project on Alaska’s North Slope. Critics say the action runs contrary to Biden’s pledges to address climate change.
The Justice Department said in a court filing that the National Petroleum Reserve was seeking to halt the development by “cherry-picking” the records of federal agencies for claiming the Willow Project in Alaska violated anti-environmental review legislation. The filing defends the reviews outlining the decision last fall that approved the project plans.
‘A step in the right direction’
Kristen Miller, executive executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, hailed the suspension of the Arctic leasing program, which she said was the result of a flawed legal process under Trump.
“Suspending these leases is a step in the right direction, and we applaud the Biden administration for a new program analysis that prioritizes sound science and adequate tribal counseling,” she said.
More action is needed, Miller said, calling for the leases to be permanently canceled and a 2017 law mandating drilling in the refuge’s coastal plain.
The drilling mandate was included in the massive tax cuts approved by Congressional Republicans during Trump’s first year in office. Republicans said it could generate an estimated $1 billion over 10 years, a figure that Democrats have called absurdly exaggerated.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a longtime opponent of drilling in the asylum, accused the Trump administration of trying to “shortcut environmental laws.” “Federal scientists say Arctic refuge drilling cannot be done safely and oil companies do not want to drill there,” Cantwell said.
“It is now up to Congress to permanently protect this irreplaceable, million-year-old ecosystem and facilitate new economic opportunities based on preserving America’s pristine public lands for outdoor recreation,” she said. .
Bernadette DeMientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, said in a statement that tribal leaders were delighted by the Biden administration’s “commitment to protecting the Holy Land and the Gwich’in way of life.”
He thanked Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for “hearing our voices and standing up for our human rights and identities.”
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