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Biden Administration Halts Oil Drilling Leases in Alaska Wildlife Refuge

todayJune 3, 2021 6

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President Joe Biden’s administration is reversing former President Donald Trump’s mandated program and stopping oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, while they conduct an environmental review.

What We Know:

  • The order was placed by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and follows the temporary ban that Biden imposed on oil and gas on his first day as president. Biden did receive backlash during his campaign from Democrats and Republicans when he stated during one of the presidential debates, “I would transition from the oil industry. It has to be replaced by renewable energy over time…I’d stop giving to the oil industry — I’d stop giving them federal subsidies.”
  • According to AP News, the Interior Department conducted a review of the drilling and stated it “identified defects in the underlying record of decision supporting the leases, including the lack of analysis of a reasonable range of alternatives that are necessary under the National Environmental Policy Act”.
  • The refuge covers over 19.6 million acres and houses animals such as polar bears and snowy owls, and holds a large rich reserve of oil. However, many environmental groups and Native tribes consider the land sacred by the Indigenous Gwich’in people.
  • Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had a lease sale of the coastal plains area and then signed leases for nine tracts, which is about 685 square miles. According to POLITICO, the drilling leases for the area were a part of Republicans’ tax cut plan in 2017 and were stated to generate $1 billion over a 10-year span. However, the lease sale flopped.
  • Republicans are calling out Biden for this halt order because he recently defended the Willow project– an oil and gas project in the North Slope of Alaska established under the Trump administration. Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan stated this order “goes against the law, facts, the science and the will of the Native communities on the North Slope. It is nothing more than a naked political move by the Biden administration to pay off its extreme environmental allies.”

Republicans and big names in the oil industry will have to wait to hear from the U.S. Department of the Interior, on if their holds on oil drilling leasing will be lifted or suspended indefinitely. The department intends to start the review in the Federal Register within the next 60 days.

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