President Joe Biden’s administration is suspending oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Former President Donald Trump activated the lease before leaving office.
All activities were suspended in the Alaskan region on Tuesday by Secretary Deb Haaland until a comprehensive analysis about the impact of drilling is available.
On President Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order to temporarily ban the lease because of legal deficiencies of the program and the inadequacy of the initial review.
“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 [sic] the character of this special place forever,” Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor, said.
The leasing mandate was introduced in the 2017 Tax Act. During President Trump’s presidency, the Bureau of Land Management established a 10-year lease for more than 430,000 acres.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, spanning over 19.3 acres, is rich in oil and gas resources. The region is warming twice as fast as any other place on earth because of climate change.
“I fought to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and stop the Trump administration’s plan for drilling. I am proud to see the Biden administration’s plan for drilling. I am proud to see the Biden administration reverse this Trump-era plan,” Senator Chuck Schumer tweeted. “We must fight to preserve America’s wild places for future generations.”
According to the Sierra Club, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America have all agreed not to fund the drilling in the fragile region.
17 indigenous and conservation organizations praised Biden’s administration for disabling the lease.
“These lands are sacred to the Gwich’in and Iñupiat people and nursery to the Porcupine caribou, polar bears and millions of migratory birds,” the organizations wrote in a joint statement. “More work remains, however, and we look forward to working with the administration on stronger action to correct this unlawful leasing program and preserve one of our nation’s most majestic public lands. We also look to the administration and Congress to now prioritize repealing the ongoing threat posed by the statutory oil leading mandate and restoring protections to America’s Serengeti.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski called the administration’s move “outrageous.”
“This action serves no purpose other than to obstruct Alaska’s economy and put our energy security at great risk,” the Senator said. “Alaskans are committed to developing our resources responsibly and have demonstrated our ability to do so safely to the world.”
Last week, the Biden administration defended a separate oil drilling operation in Alaska.