Biden administration seeks reversal of Trump move opening up more Arctic drilling

The Biden administration is taking steps to reverse a move from former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dead at 77 Biden, Democrats losing ground with independent and suburban voters: poll Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE that opened up more of the Arctic for drilling. 

In a statement, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it will seek to revert to an Obama-era plan that leaves just 52 percent of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska available for oil and gas drilling. The Trump administration plan left 82 percent open for such purposes.

But the BLM said part of the Trump plan will remain, including “certain more protective lease stipulations and operating procedures for threatened and endangered species” implemented by its predecessor.

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The National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska is an approximately 23-million-acre area in Alaska’s north slope.

In 1923, then-President Warren Harding set the area aside as an emergency oil reserve for the Navy. It was later transferred to the BLM, which sells leases for companies to drill for oil in the area. 

In a September memo, Interior official Laura Daniel-Davis raised concerns about drilling in the “biologically sensitive” Teshekpuk Lake Special Area. Opponents of the plan have raised concerns about drilling in that area, citing its importance for wildlife including polar bears. 

She also said that the Trump plan “contains other changes that reduce environmental protections in favor of further promoting oil and gas development.”

But the Trump administration argued that in opening up more of the reserve, it was expanding the country’s energy potential and creating jobs.

The latest announcement comes as part of litigation over the issue.

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In its new announcement, the BLM outlined additional steps forward. It said it will tell the court that it does not think it needs to undertake a new environmental review.

Instead, it hopes to publish a new “record of decision” which formally establishes its policy following some endangered species consultations.

Updated at 5:15 p.m.