The Biden administration has announced the cancellation of seven oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, previously issued during the Trump administration. These leases were suspended in June 2021 due to “legal deficiencies.” The move aligns with the Biden administration’s commitment to protect public lands from oil and gas development and address climate change.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland emphasized the urgency of protecting the fragile Arctic ecosystem, which is warming at more than twice the global rate due to climate change. The decision comes as part of a broader effort by the administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change, which has led to an increase in extreme weather events worldwide.
While environmental groups have welcomed the cancellation of these leases, there has been criticism from some quarters, including Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, who argued that it would hinder the state’s economic development. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA), which initially purchased the leases, has not yet commented on the decision.
In addition to canceling leases in ANWR, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has proposed new regulations to protect over 13 million acres of land in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, with around 40% of the land designated as off-limits to oil and gas development. The DOI’s statement highlights that many Indigenous communities depend on this reserve for subsistence activities.
Secretary Haaland, who is the first Indigenous cabinet secretary in U.S. history, emphasized the commitment to safeguarding public lands based on science and Indigenous knowledge. This decision underscores the administration’s dedication to addressing the climate crisis and preserving natural environments for future generations.