President Biden Axes Trump-Era Leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
In a bold move, President Joe Biden has taken another step towards his commitment to combat climate change by canceling oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This decision marks a significant blow to American energy.
Back in 2017, Congress opened up a 1.6-million-acre patch of land in Alaska’s north coast for drilling leases through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. However, this section only accounts for less than 10 percent of the entire refuge, which is about the size of South Carolina and spans 19.6 million acres in northeast Alaska.
“My Administration is canceling all remaining oil and gas leases issued under the last administration in the Arctic Refuge and proposing to protect 13 million acres in the Western Arctic,” Biden wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. ”There’s more to do,” he added ominously.
Biden had previously paused leases in 2021 to assess their environmental effects, following an executive order on his first day in office to halt new drilling leases on public land. In August, a federal judge upheld the administration’s pause on development in the region despite objections from Alaskans.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland celebrated the cancellation of leases in a press release, stating, “President Biden is delivering on the most ambitious climate and conservation agenda in history. The steps we are taking today further that commitment, based on the best available science and in recognition of the Indigenous Knowledge of the original stewards of this area, to safeguard our public lands for future generations.” However, it’s worth noting that the indigenous tribe closest to the area only turned against drilling after unsuccessfully attempting to lease out its own land for oil and gas development.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there are between 4.3 and 11.8 billion barrels of recoverable oil beneath the frozen tundra of the north slope’s refuge.
This decision to terminate leases issued under President Donald Trump follows Biden’s previous order in March to restrict another 16 million acres of Alaskan territory from oil and gas development. Biden has made it a top priority to lock up 30 percent of the nation’s land and waterways by 2030.
“Once again, the Biden administration has shown it cares nothing about following the law when it comes to its climate crusade,” said Rick Whitbeck, the Alaska State Director for Power the Future. “Canceling fully-executed leases and putting congressionally-authorized development areas off-limits only weakens America’s domestic energy situation. You have to wonder who is pulling the strings: OPEC? Russia? China?”
Biden has consistently turned to Middle Eastern nations to increase oil production whenever oil prices rise.
Republican Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who has been repeatedly frustrated by the administration’s antagonism towards development in his state, strongly criticized this latest interference from Washington. “Federal agencies don’t get to rewrite laws, and that is exactly what the Department of the Interior is trying to do here,” Dunleavy said. “We will fight for Alaska’s right to develop its own resources and will be turning to the courts to correct the Biden administration’s wrong.”
Tristan Justice is the western correspondent for The Federalist and the author of Social Justice Redux, a conservative newsletter on culture, health, and wellness. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and The Daily Signal. His work has also been featured in Real Clear Politics and Fox News. Tristan graduated from George Washington University where he majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @JusticeTristan or contact him at [email protected]. Sign up for Tristan’s email newsletter here.
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