On Sunday, the Biden administration announced it would continually block future fossil fuel drilling on 16 million acres of federal water and land in Alaska.
The Department of Interior (DOI) said it proposed rulemaking procedures to “establish maximum protection” across the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR), of approximately 13 acres of land, in the North Slope Borough, Alaska, land that was set aside by Congress for potential resource development. Additionally, President Biden ordered 2.8 million acres in the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort Sea off the northern coast of Alaska be withdrawn from gas and oil leasing.
“With these actions, President Biden continues to deliver on the most aggressive climate agenda in American history,” said the DOI in a statement. “He has made the United States a magnet for clean energy manufacturing and jobs. He secured record investments in climate resilience and environmental justice.”
The statement continued, “And his economic agenda has put the United States back on track to reach its climate goals for 2030 and 2050, all while reducing America’s reliance on oil and protecting American families from the impact of Putin’s war on global energy markets.”
The DOI’s announcement means that the whole section of the Arctic Ocean owned by the federal government is forbidden from producing fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. The Biden administration has already ruled out future auctions through 2028, and an offshore lease sale has not occurred in the region since 2007.
Also, the DOI said President Biden aims to limit future fossil production in the future in the Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon, Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, and Peard Bay “special areas” that are well-known for their rich wildlife populations. The president’s wide-reaching actions will also forbid the development of certain northern Alaska region fossil fuel pipeline infrastructure.
“It’s a totally political decision, it’s not based on science, it’s not based on climate change, it’s not based on biological resources,” according to a former senior Bureau of Land Management official in a Sunday interview. “They’re pandering solely for political purposes and not paying attention to the science.”
Final decision pending on Alaska Willow oil project
As a precursor, while President Biden prepares to unveil his final decision on the massive Willow oil project in Alaska, his administration announced his oil drilling limits.
Regulators are poised to announce a final decision on the $8 billion Willow project, an oil drilling plan pushed by ConocoPhillips in the petroleum reserve. Climate activists have fought the new project, calling it a “carbon bomb” that betrays Biden’s campaign pledges to stop new gas and oil drilling.
In the meantime, Alaskan unions, lawmakers, and indigenous communities have urged Biden to approve the project, saying it will bring billions of dollars in mitigation funds and taxes and much-needed jobs to the massive ice-and snow-covered region almost 600 miles from Anchorage. GOP Senator Dan Sullivan from Alaska said Willow is “one of the biggest, most important resource development projects in our state’s history.”