The Biden administration on Tuesday suspended oil and gas drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in front of Alaska ahead of the outcome of a review of the environmental impact that reversed former President Donald Trump’s policies before he left office.
President Joe Biden, on his first day in January, placed a temporary ban on the new wildlife leases. But on Tuesday, Secretary Deb Haaland issued a memorandum (pdf) and said that activities in the region should stop pending the analysis.
“This order is effective immediately,” reads Haaland’s memo, “and will remain in effect until amended, replaced or revoked, whichever occurs first.”
According to her memorandum, the Department of Home Affairs conducted an investigation that ‘identified several legal shortcomings in the underlying record of the leases’, which she said was the previous government’s inadequate analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act … adequately analyze a reasonable range of alternatives in the environmental impact statement. ”
In January, Trump issued ten-year leases on more than 430,000 acres of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge land, and he and other former government officials argued it was part of their plan to make the United States’ energy-independent energy . However, the fight over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge dates back to the Clinton administration, when former President Bill Clinton vetoed a Republican plan to allow drilling in the remote region in 1995.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) described the move to suspend drilling as “not unexpected, yet scandalous.”
“This action has no purpose other than to hamper Alaska’s economy and endanger our energy security,” she said in a statement. “Alaskans are committed to developing our resources responsibly and have shown that we can make the world a safe place.”
The Republican government of Alaska, Mike Dunleavy, described the move as an “attack on the Alaska economy” that amounts to “federal persuasion.”
“The closure of our lands was not what William Seward intended when Alaska was founded, and we are not going to allow the Biden government to turn Alaska into a giant national park,” he said, referring to Seward, the U.S. Secretary of State between 1861 and 1869 and who negotiated the purchase of Alaska in 1868.