Biden Suspends All Oil And Gas Drilling In Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The Biden administration has suspended Trump-approved oil and gas exploration leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In his last weeks in office, Trump began auctioning off the right to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas. The decision would endanger thousands of migrating caribou, as well as polar bears and waterfowl.
The leases were sold at $14.4 million, well below what was expected, in what many saw as a political move from the exiting president.
The Biden administration has now reversed the decision that proved controversial with environmentalists. So much so that some banks refused to loan the money required to acquire the lease. The decision to not fulfil the lease has also pleased the Indigenous residents such as the Gwich’in tribe.
As per The Washington Post, the Gwich’in committee said in a statement:
The Gwich’in Nation is grateful and heartened by the news that the Biden administration has acted again on its commitment to protecting sacred lands and the Gwich’in way of life.
However, other Indigenous people, environmentalists, and oil companies have criticised the administration’s policies.
Pavel Molchanov, an energy analyst, noted that:
Trump’s desire to push through this lease sale in January was essentially an empty, meaningless, political gesture. And Biden’s decision is in its own way equally symbolic: there is simply no appetite in the industry to drill there.
Indigenous groups have stressed that the leases need to be completely cancelled, noting:
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.
Furthermore, some natives are concerned about continued drilling in the area. The Willow project, which was originally approved by Trump, has seen support from the Biden administration, and is set to lay down hundreds of miles of roads as well as five drilling sites. These are expected to disrupt animal migration patterns.
In response, Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, a city council member in Nuiqsut, an Indigenous village close to the project, said:
[Biden] led us along with his election criteria saying he would make better choices, especially along the areas of climate change. So it’s very disappointing for them to speak in one way and act in another.
This is one of the largest international energy development projects across the world. And that’s not what he campaigned upon.
Many will see the approval of drilling and cancelling of similar ventures as paradoxical policy. In fact, while the Biden administration has promoted its action against drilling, ConocoPhillips has also discussed its joy at the administration’s approval of further drilling.
Erec Isaacson, president of ConocoPhillips Alaska, said:
Although the final decision on the Willow Project is still pending, clearing the DOI review represents a very significant milestone for this project.
This is a great example of collaboration and thorough preparation enabling a rational, fact-based decision.
Featured Image Credit: PA Images/Pexels
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