Stockholm (NordSIP) – The Biden Administration has announced it will suspend oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, pending an environmental review. Leases for oil and gas drilling in the Alaskan refuge had been allowed by the Trump administration based on the 2017 Tax reform approved by Congress.
The 78,000 sq km Alaskan refuge covers territory that is sacred to local indigenous communities and is the habitat of polar bears, caribou, snowy owls and other wildlife, as well as migrating birds from six continents. During the 2020 US Presidential race, the Biden-Harris campaign promised to “take immediate steps to reverse the Trump administration’s assaults on America’s natural treasures, including by reversing Trump’s attacks on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Bears Ears, and Grand Staircase-Escalante.”
The Biden administration has no intention to retroactively challenge the lease deals agreed during the Trump years. This includes the US $2-3 billion ConocoPhillips Willow project, which was authorised in 2020 and has been in development since 2017. Nevertheless, Republicans objected to the decision framing it as a hindrance to the ability of Alaskans to develop their economy and a lack of trust in their ability to do so sustainably.
“The Biden administration’s actions are not unexpected but are outrageous nonetheless,” said Lisa Murkowski, Senior Senator for the state of Alaska, and one of the originators of the original Trump era lease deal. “Suspending leases in Alaska’s 1002 Area is in direct conflict with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, through which Congress mandates an oil and gas leasing program be established on the non-wilderness Coastal Plain, and ordered at least two lease sales by 2024. In addition, The Act specifically states that the purpose of the 1002 area of ANWR is oil and gas development. 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 purpose other than to obstruct Alaska’s economy and put our energy security at great risk. Alaskans are committed to developing our resources responsibly and have demonstrated our ability to do so safely to the world.”
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