In this photo with no specified date, a plane can be seen flying above caribou in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge located in northeast Alaska. The photo was taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and shared by AP Photo.
By Ben Lefebvre
Earlier this year, approval was given for ConocoPhillips’ extensive Willow oil project in northern Alaska.
However, this development arrives at a precarious moment for President Joe Biden as the recent surge in crude oil costs poses a threat to increase gasoline prices. Additionally, it is expected to face opposition from the influential oil sector and Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska.Lisa Murkowski,
A crucial vote that the government has deliberately sought after, along with Senator from Alaska.Dan Sullivan
The individual criticized the decision, stating that it would hinder Indigenous people from accessing economic opportunities.
The speaker expressed frustration with the Biden administration’s focus on racial equity, justice, and environmental justice, but noted that they consistently neglect the needs of Indigenous people in Alaska.
Alaska was once a leading U.S. oil producer, pumping more than 2 million barrels per day in the late 1980s, but the dearth of new investment has seen that output fall to less than 500,000 barrels per day in recent years.
On Wednesday, the Interior Department declared that it will cancel the ANWR leases that were sold by the previous administration before it departed office. Additionally, the department intends to prohibit drilling on 10.6 million acres of land within the National Petroleum Reserve located along the North Slope of the state. This accounts for approximately 40 percent of the reserve’s total acreage. Furthermore, there will be restrictions on drilling in an additional 2.6 million acres in this area. According to the agency, these regions provide vital undisturbed habitats for various wildlife species, such as grizzly and polar bears, caribou, and hundreds of thousands of migratory birds.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland referenced the dangers posed to Indigenous communities by the quickly changing Alaskan climate as the reason for halting the production of fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.
Haaland stated that due to climate change, the Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the world. It is imperative that we take all necessary measures to ensure the utmost care in preserving this delicate ecosystem.
The decision to safeguard ANWR from drilling and pipeline construction has been positively received by nearby indigenous communities who were concerned about the potential harm to wildlife in the northeastern region of Alaska.
“The Arctic Village and Venetie Tribal authorities express profound appreciation to the Department of Interior for their decision to revoke all Arctic Refuge leases,” stated a press release issued by both groups following the declaration. “This marks a crucial move towards genuine and effective preservation of these territories, which are crucial for the well-being and longevity of our communities.”
Donald Trump, the previous president, boasted about successfully allowing oil production in ANWR, despite years of political disputes over the resources located beneath the tundra. However, the interest of oil companies in drilling in Alaska has declined as they have shifted towards more affordable and easily accessible fields in Texas and New Mexico.
The lease auction conducted by the Trump Administration’s Department of the Interior in January 2021 was deemed unsuccessful, as it only received $14.4 million in bids from two companies and the Alaskan state-owned oil development corporation.
However, the decision made by the Interior was met with criticism from the oil industry. They believe that the administration’s actions will hinder potential oil production while simultaneously attempting to prevent Russia from benefiting from crude sales during their conflict in Ukraine.
Kara Moriarty, the leader of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, commented that it is ironic that the Biden Administration announced this decision on the same day that there were reports of Russian oil tankers passing through the Bering Strait due to the conflict in Ukraine. Despite this, global demand for oil remains high and Moriarty believes that the President should be focused on increasing access to energy sources rather than limiting it.
Biden officials stated during a call with reporters that the Interior could potentially cancel the Trump administration’s leasing of ANWR land due to legal mistakes made during the sale process.
Indigenous communities and environmental organizations expressed satisfaction with the Department of the Interior’s proposal to designate 13 million acres in Alaska as “special areas” for protection. This decision is seen as a significant victory, particularly following the approval of the Willow project, which is situated within the petroleum reserve.
The Department of the Interior announced that 10.6 million acres out of the total 23 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve will be safeguarded from new oil lease sales. Additionally, local communities will have the opportunity to suggest other areas for protection, fulfilling a commitment made by the department in March.
A second administration stated during a call with reporters that Interior would establish safeguards to prevent them from being removed by future administrations.
The proposed regulation will permanently protect 13 million acres in special areas, according to an official. This prevents any future administrations from decreasing their size, as was previously possible.
Rep. Jared Huffman
Representative from California, a Democrat known for his progressive views, commended the Interior announcement. However, he maintained his criticism of Biden’s Willow decision.
“I consider today to be a positive day,” Huffman stated during an interview. “It’s especially refreshing since there is no negative news accompanying it. We’ve had many instances where it’s been necessary to sugarcoat things, but this brings nothing but good news for the climate.”
This report was co-authored by James Bikales.