President Biden has rolled back oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve (ANWR) and is planning to block future drilling efforts in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Department of the Interior announced that the leases issued during the Trump administration had been rescinded and that 13 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve will now be closed off to future drilling.
This move was opposed by top Alaskan politicians including Governor Mike Dunleavy and Republican Senator Dan Sullivan. “It’s clear that President Biden needs a refresher on the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine,” said Dunleavy in a statement. “Federal agencies don’t get to rewrite laws, and that is exactly what the Department of the Interior is trying to do here.”
Sullivan echoed Dunleavy’s criticism, adding that the move will weaken US energy security. “This war on Alaska is devastating not only for Alaska but also the energy security of the nation,” he said.
The Department of the Interior justified the decision based on their need to protect the environment. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland explained, “With climate change warming the Arctic more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet, we must do everything within our control to meet the highest standards of care to protect this fragile ecosystem.”
Despite Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline expansion and a strong push towards renewable energy, climate activists are still concerned with Biden’s decision to approve the Willow oil project in Alaska’s North Slope. If the project goes ahead, it is expected to yield 180,000 barrels of oil per day.
This war on Alaska is devastating for not only Alaska but also the energy security of the nation. This unlawful cancellation of leases brings us to 55 executive orders and actions specifically targeting Alaska since President Biden assumed office. (1/2)https://t.co/FAEd6i6T9m
— Sen. Dan Sullivan (@SenDanSullivan) September 6, 2023
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a 19.6 million-acre area that is home to polar bears, caribou, and thousands of migratory birds. Conservationists have long fought to protect the land from the potential environmental damage of oil and gas drilling while pro-drilling proponents argue that it could create jobs and inject billions into the economy.
Alaska’s economy is heavily reliant on its oil revenue, and this decision comes at a time when gas prices across the country are already high. Although Biden has promised to continue providing economic aid to the state, Alaskans are worried that canceling the leases will have a significant negative impact.
Biden’s move to end oil and gas leases in the ANWR and block drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve demonstrates his commitment to transitioning away from fossil fuels and protecting the environment. Alaskans are likely to critique the decision as it could strip the state of millions in revenue and threaten the livelihoods of many.