On Tuesday, President Biden halted all gas and oil leases in the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, leases which the Trump administration fought hard to approve.
Deb Haaland, Interior Secretary for the DOI said that all gas and oil activities are henceforth suspended “pending. . . a comprehensive analysis” of the National Environmental Policy Act. She added that the department is seeking case by case determination of whether or not leases can “be reaffirmed, voided, or” made to comply with “additional mitigation measures.”
This decision by the Biden administration comes as gas prices have continually risen since the new administration took power, and national averages are $0.60 higher than they were last under Trump.
Politico repots that the region in question is a coastal plain, 1.6 million-acres of tundra in Alaska’s far North Slope. Trump had opened gas and oil development in 2017 as a component of his Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The bill was drafted by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who gave the authority over the lease program to the DOI.
Opening the coastal plain for energy drilling was a decades long fight for access to the resource rich region. The area is approximately the same size as South Carolina but sparsely populated with very few residents.
Mike Dunleavy, Alaska’s Governor, criticized Biden in a statement after the news was released, saying that the lease suspension “is contrary to federal law” because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act language says that the DOI Secretary “shall. . . administer a competitive [resource] program.” He points out that neither the Secretary nor the President have the power to decide to end or halt the program altogether. He called the decision an “assault on Alaska’s economy” and promised to do everything he could to “undo this egregious federal overreach.”
Dunleavy pointed out in his statement that Alaska’s drilling program is one of the most environmentally friendly in the world, and supplies crucial energy to the United States. By shutting down Alaskan oil, less environmentally conscious foreign countries, likely to be hostile to the U.S., will be selling us their oil at greater prices. Finally, Dunleavy said that Alaskan’s would not allow Biden to convert the state “into a giant national park.”
Author: Tracy Lamb