A senior administration source said Tuesday that the Biden administration wants to freeze oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reversing a decision made by the Trump administration late last year.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order earlier this year asking the Secretary of the Interior to impose a temporary ban on oil and gas leasing activities in the area pending a study. The President’s order cited “alleged legal problems underlying the program,” such as the program’s earlier environmental review’s “inadequacy.”
The Biden administration’s proposal to stop the leases was originally reported by Politico.
The suspension is the latest attempt by the Biden administration to undo Trump-era environmental measures, which critics and Democrats say favored corporate interests. Biden halted the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office, and the US formally rejoined the major worldwide agreement to curb global warming known as the Paris Agreement in February.
Last November, the Trump administration began a lease process for oil and gas drilling sites off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which environmentalists saw as a possible last-minute gift to the energy sector before the Biden administration entered office.
The Bureau of Land Management “organized a lease sale on January 6, 2021, and subsequently granted 10-year leases on nine tracts encompassing more than 430,000 acres,” according to a statement released by the Interior Department on Tuesday.
The 19.3-million-acre ANWR is partly comprised of nearly 1.6 million acres of coastal plains, which is both a sensitive environmental area and “highly prospective for oil and gas resources,” according to the bureau.
The agency has said it is required by the 2017 federal tax law to conduct two leases in the ANWR coastal plain area by 2024.