Energy & Environment

Biden administration to suspend Arctic oil leases issued under Trump


The Biden administration will suspend controversial leases issued under the previous administration for drilling at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), it announced Tuesday.

The leases will be halted amid a further environmental review, which will determine whether they should be reaffirmed, voided or subject to additional measures to lessen their environmental impacts, according to an Interior Department statement. 

An order signed on Tuesday by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that a departmental review found “multiple legal deficiencies” in the record supporting the leases. 

These included insufficient environmental analysis including “failure to adequately analyze a reasonable range of alternatives” in a prior environmental review and a failure to properly interpret the law authorizing the lease sales. 

In a separate statement, National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said that the move is an “important step forward fulfilling President Biden’s promise to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

“President Biden believes America’s national treasures are cultural and economic cornerstones of our country and he is grateful for the prompt action by the Department of the Interior to suspend all leasing pending a review of decisions made in the last administration’s final days that could have changes the character of this special place forever,” McCarthy said. 

Politico first reported the suspension on Tuesday. 

In a Day One executive order, Biden ordered the Interior Department to temporarily halt all activities relating to oil and gas leasing at the refuge. The order cited “alleged legal deficiencies underlying the program, including the inadequacy of the environmental review.”

He also opposed drilling there on the campaign trail, pledging to “permanently” protect the Alaska refuge, which is home to grizzly bears, polar bears, gray wolves and more than 200 species of birds and contains land considered sacred by the Gwich’in people. 

However, a 2017 law requires the federal government to hold two lease sales to allow for drilling at ANWR, one by the end of this year and another by the end of 2024. 

The first of those sales was already held at the tail end of the Trump administration and garnered just a fraction of the interest that supporters had estimated. 

Proponents of drilling at the refuge have argued it would create jobs and generate revenue, while opponents have raised concerns about wildlife, climate change and the Gwich’in. 

The reports follow a separate move by the administration in support of a separate Trump-approved drilling project in the state at the National Petroleum Reserve — Alaska. 

Updated at 4:43 p.m.

Tags Alaska Alaska ANWR Arctic drilling Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Deb Haaland Gina McCarthy Joe Biden
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