Biden administration controls oil and gas leases on 13 million acres of Alaska's petroleum reserves

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Biden administration said Friday it will ban new oil and gas leases on 13 million acres (5.3 million hectares) of federal petroleum reserves in Alaska to protect wildlife such as caribou and polar bears as the Arctic continues. hot

The decision is part of a years-long struggle over how to develop the state's vast oil reserves The safeguards were first proposed last year As democratic administration prepares Approve the controversial willow oil project.

Willow's endorsement drew ire from environmentalists, who said the big oil project would violate President Joe Biden's pledge to fight back. Climate change. Friday's decision also completes an earlier plan that called for the closure of nearly half of the reserves for oil and gas leases.

Alaska US Senate. A group of Republican lawmakers led by Don Sullivan walked out before Friday's announcement about drilling limits in Alaska's national petroleum-reserve. Sullivan called it an “unlawful” attack on the state's economic lifeblood, and he predicted lawsuits.

“This is more than a one-two punch for Alaska,” said the state's Senate Republican. Lisa Murkowski said, “Because when you access our resources and say you can't drill, you can't produce, you can't explore, you can't. Move it — this is energy insecurity we're talking about.”

Conclusion by Home Department It does not change the terms of existing leases or affect currently authorized operations, including Willow.

In an olive branch to environmentalists, the Biden administration on Friday recommended rejecting a state corporation's application for a proposed 210-mile (338-kilometer) road in the state's northwest. Copper, cobalt, zinc, silver and gold. There are no mining proposals or existing mines in the area, however, the proposed funding model for the Ambler Road project is speculative, the home ministry said in a statement.

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Sullivan accused the administration of undermining US national security interests with both decisions. Alaska political leaders have long accused the administration of harming the state with decisions to restrict oil and gas development. Minerals and wood.

“Joe Biden is OK with our enemies producing energy and dominating the world's vital minerals, and shutting down our own in America, until he satisfies the far-left extremists he thinks are critical to his re-election,” Sullivan said Thursday at the Capitol. news conference with 10 other GOP senators. “What a dangerous world this president has created.”

Biden defended his decision regarding petroleum reserves.

Alaska's “vast and rugged lands and watersheds are among the most remarkable and healthy landscapes in the world,” he said in a statement, critical to Alaska Native communities and “demanding our protection.”

Nagruk Harcharek, president of Voice of the Arctic Inupiat, a group that includes chiefs from much of Alaska's North Slope, criticized the administration's approach. The board of directors of the group had earlier passed a resolution opposing the management's plans to remain.

The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's top lobbying group, said the rule is “misguided” and severely restricts future oil and natural gas development in the petroleum reserve, “an area expressly intended by Congress to improve America's energy security” and generate revenue for Alaskan communities.

“At a time when the world looks to American energy leadership, this is another step in the wrong direction,” said API Senior Vice President Dustin Meyer.

The petroleum reserve, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, is home to caribou and polar bears and provides habitat for millions of migratory birds. It was earmarked a century ago as an emergency oil source for the US Navy, but since the 1970s it has been overseen by the Department of the Interior. There has been a long-standing debate about where oil and gas development should occur.

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Most of the existing leases in petroleum reserves are clustered in an area considered to have high development potential, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management under the Department of the Interior. Development potential in other areas of the reserve is limited, the company said.

The rules announced Friday would impose restrictions on future leasing and industrial development in areas designated for their wildlife, livelihoods or other values ​​and require the agency to continue to evaluate whether to designate new special areas or improve protection in those areas. The agency cites rapidly changing conditions in the Arctic due to climate change, including melting ice and changes in plant life and wildlife corridors.

Environmentalists rejoiced.

“The Biden administration's actions toward America's Arctic demonstrate a commitment to conservation that meets the needs of the region's broader and ecological value,” said Kristen Miller, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League. “Our nation's public lands are an essential part of addressing the climate and biodiversity crisis, and this decision couldn't come at a more critical time.”

“This big, wild place can be wild,” said Ellen Montgomery, director of the Environmental America Research and Policy Center.

Jeremy Leib, an attorney with Earthjustice, said the administration has taken an important step to protect the climate with the latest decision. Earth Justice is currently involved in the case before a federal appeals court It seeks to change Willow's consent.

Judgment in that case is pending.

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Daly reported from Washington.

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Follow AP's coverage of the U.S. Department of the Interior https://apnews.com/hub/us-department-of-the-interior.

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