Biden plans temporary halt of oil activity in Arctic refuge

Posted 1/20/21

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — President Joe Biden's administration announced plans Wednesday for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after the Trump …

To Our Valued Readers –

Visitors to our website will be limited to five stories per month unless they opt to subscribe.

For $5.99, less than 20 cents a day, subscribers will receive unlimited access to the website, including access to our Daily Independent e-edition, which features Arizona-specific journalism and items you can’t find in our community print products, such as weather reports, comics, crossword puzzles, advice columns and so much more six days a week.

Our commitment to balanced, fair reporting and local coverage provides insight and perspective not found anywhere else.

Your financial commitment will help to preserve the kind of honest journalism produced by our reporters and editors. We trust you agree that independent journalism is an essential component of our democracy. Please click here to subscribe.

Sincerely,
Charlene Bisson, Publisher, Independent Newsmedia

Please log in to continue

Log in
I am anchor

Biden plans temporary halt of oil activity in Arctic refuge

Posted

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — President Joe Biden's administration announced plans Wednesday for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the refuge considered sacred by the Indigenous Gwich'in.

The plans, along with other executive actions, were outlined by press secretary Jen Psaki.

Issuing leases had been a priority of the Trump administration following a 2017 law calling for lease sales, said Lesli Ellis-Wouters, a spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Alaska.

The agency held the first lease sale for the refuge's coastal plain on Jan. 6. Eight days later, Ellis-Wouters said, it signed leases for nine tracts totaling nearly 685 square miles (1,770 square kilometers). The issuance of leases was not announced publicly until Tuesday, President Donald Trump's last full day in office.

Ellis-Wouters said by email Wednesday that she has not “received anything on executive orders that pertain to the ANWR lease sales.”

E. Colleen Bryan, a spokesperson for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, said the state corporation, which was issued seven leases and was the main bidder in the lease sale, “can’t speculate what may happen with the new administration.”

Biden has opposed drilling in the region, and drilling opponents hope the executive action is a step toward providing permanent protections, which Biden called for during the presidential campaign. Details of his plans weren't immediately available, though Psaki told reporters in Washington that leases would be reviewed.

The fight to open the coastal plain to drilling goes back decades, with the state’s Republican congressional delegation hailing the issuance of leases as “significant and meaningful for Alaska's future.” They criticized on Wednesday the planned moratorium.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said in a statement that Americans did not give Biden “a mandate to kill good-paying jobs and curry favor with coastal elites.”

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said “significant progress” has been made in the past month, with the lease sale and issuance of leases. “The Biden administration must faithfully implement the law and allow for that good progress to continue,” she said in a statement.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, said the state “does responsible oil and gas development in the Arctic better than anyone, and yet our economic future is at risk should this line of attack on our sovereignty and well-being continue.”

Oil has long been the economic lifeblood of Alaska, and drilling supporters have viewed development as a way to boost oil production that is a fraction of what it was in the late 1980s, and to generate revenue and create or sustain jobs.

Drilling critics have said the area off the Beaufort Sea provides habitat for wildlife including caribou, polar bears, wolves and birds — and should be off limits to drilling. The Gwich'in have raised concerns about impacts on a caribou herd on which they have relied for subsistence.

"It is so important that our young people see that we are heard, and that the president acknowledges our voices, our human rights and our identity," Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, said in a statement.

Comments