Biden Halts Arctic Refuge Oil Program

Joe Biden. (Photo: jlhervàs/Flickr)
On his first day in the White House, Biden took a series of executive actions that put an exclamation point on his commitment to address climate change. (Photo: jlhervàs/Flickr)

US President Joe Biden took immediate action to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska by placing a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities on its coastal plain.

President Joe Biden imposed a “temporary moratorium” on all oil and gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after taking office on Wednesday, citing the “alleged legal deficiencies underlying the program” and the inadequacy of a required environmental review.

Read the full cover in Alaska Public Media.

Biden’s decicion to stop drilling in the northeast Alaska refuge is among a list of executive orders the newly-inaugurated president swiftly signed to undo actions by the Trump administration.

The undoing of Trump

Biden´s executive order tied to the Arctic refuge states:

"In light of the alleged legal deficiencies underlying the program, including the inadequacy of the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, place a temporary moratorium on all activities of the Federal Government relating to the implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program, as established by the Record of Decision signed August 17, 2020, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

A new administration that once again respects and values science.
Adam Kolton, Executive director at Alaska Wilderness League.

The new moratorium comes only one day after the Trump administration announced that it had finalized nine 10-year leases for oil drilling in the northern part of the refuge, the coastal plain.

The leases are held by two small companies and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state-owned corporation. The last minute deals did not go unnoticed by the critics.

Applaudes the act

Biden’s executive order directs the Interior Department to review the oil-leasing program for the refuge, and “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law” to do a new analysis of its potential environmental impacts.

Biden campaigned on “permanently protecting” the Arctic refuge, and “reversing Trump’s attacks” on the area, but had not released any specifics about his intentions before Wednesday.

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Adam Kolton, the executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League
Adam Kolton, the executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League. (Photo: AWL)
Adam Kolton.

Executive director at Alaska Wilderness League, Adam Kolton, applaudes the act in a statement wednesday:

“We can now return to the bipartisan tradition of valuing our most cherished and iconic landscapes as the national treasures that they are instead of targets for exploitation and short-term profit. And with a new administration that once again respects and values science, we can again acknowledge the realities of the climate crisis and advance solutions that will help create clean energy jobs, lift up frontline communities, and lead to better management and stewardship of our public lands".

Rejoined the Paris Agreement

Kolton goes on to thank the president for keeping his word:

“Thank you, President Biden, for making good on your promise to take immediate, strong and decisive action to halt all oil and gas activities in the Arctic Refuge. Today’s executive order to stop the plundering of this national treasure is a critical first step toward what we hope will one day be the permanent protection of one of the last great expanses of untouched wilderness areas in America.”

Biden aslo moved to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change and revoked a permit that former President Donald Trump granted to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline running between USA and Canada.