Biden suspends Trump-era drilling leases at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Photo: Danita Delimont, Shutterstock

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The move follows an executive order signed by President Biden to review new wells in the Arctic.

Suspension of drilling at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) was high on President Biden’s to-do list. And on June 1st, the Biden government kept its promise.

A previous executive order, signed on day one in Biden’s office, required the Home Office to impose a drilling moratorium while it was reviewing the program that started the sale of oil leases during the Trump administration.

“After carrying out the necessary review, the Ministry identified deficiencies in the underlying decision-making file that supports the leases, including the lack of an analysis of a reasonable range of alternatives in the EIS carried out under NEPA,” said the Ministry of Interior, referring to the required environmental impact declaration within the framework of the National Environmental Policy Act.

A new secretarial assignment from Home Secretary Deb Haaland calls for a new environmental impact statement, addressing legal issues from the previous statement.

What happens next?

The suspension doesn’t terminate the current rental agreements on ANWR. However, there will be time to provide a full scientific breakdown of the potential environmental impact of drilling.

It is important to note that the leases themselves did not attract much attention from the oil and gas industry. Only three companies bought leases from the federal government, including two small businesses on 75,000 acres.

The largest tenant was the state of Alaska, which offered the minimum price of $ 25 for 500,000 acres along Prudhoe Bay. The latter also has potential legal implications. It is not yet known whether the state can legally acquire leases.

The Home Office will use the suspension to investigate the potential environmental cost of the leases and legal implications, if any, from the Trump administration’s process of opening the leases to the public.

Protection of the Arctic

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife RefugeImage Credit: Trout, Shutterstock

ANWR comprises 19.6 million hectares of wilderness, 8.9 million of which are protected as wilderness. The refuge is inhabited by caribou, polar bears, brown bears, wolves, wolverines and more. It borders on that National oil reserve, which holds 23 million acres of federal mineral rights.

The refuge is currently a paradise for hunting, gathering, recreation and of course a nature reserve that extends over several million hectares. Its existence supports and complies with the laws of the international nature conservation agreement. In addition to the landscape, it also provides massive protection for water.

Studies have shown that female caribou in Prudhoe Bay reduced the use of land disrupted by drilling activities by 78%. For more than a millennium, tribes like the Iñupiat and Gwich’in have been closely associated with these dwindling herds.

“We believe the future of Gwich’in and the future of the caribou are the same, ”said Jonathon Solomon, the elder of Gwich’in. “The damage done to the porcupine-caribou herd is damaging the Gwich’in culture and the millennia-old way of life.”

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