On Sunday evening, the Biden administration announced that it would block 16 million acres of federal land and water in Alaska from future fossil fuel drilling.
The Department of Interior initiated a rule-making process to establish maximum protection for 13 million acres of land in the National Petroleum Reserve, an area in North Slope Borough, Alaska, set aside by Congress for resource development.
President Biden also ordered an additional 2.8 million acres to be withdrawn from oil and gas leasing in the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean off the northern coast of Alaska.
The announcement means that the entire section of the Arctic Ocean owned by the federal government is blocked from any fossil fuel production in the foreseeable future.
Additionally, the DOI said Biden intends to limit future fossil fuel production in the Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon, and Peard Bay special areas known for their rich wildlife populations.
Biden’s sweeping actions also prevent the development of certain fossil fuel pipeline infrastructure in the northern Alaska region.
While the DOI will publish the final decision on the project, Biden and senior White House officials have been actively involved in overseeing the approval process for the Willow Project, an oil project proposed years ago by energy company ConocoPhillips.
ConocoPhillips has projected that Willow would produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil per day, create more than 2,500 construction jobs and 300 long-term jobs, and deliver as much as $17 billion in revenue for the federal government, Alaska and local communities, many of which are Indigenous. Overall, it could have a total output of 600 million barrels of oil over its three-decade lifespan.
The Biden administration is expected to announce on Monday that it is approving three of the five drilling sites for the Willow Project, which is why the DOI announcement is an apparent attempt to soften the blow for climate activists. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., wrote in a tweet that “We cannot allow the Willow Project to move forward. We must build a clean energy future — not return to a dark, fossil-fueled past.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., added that the administration’s expected approval of the project was a “complete betrayal.”
In contrast, Alaska’s congressional delegation, Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, and Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola have supported Willow, alongside the state’s entire legislature, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Alaska Native communities, labor unions, leaders of the North Slope Borough, and the Alaska Federation of Natives.
A former senior Bureau of Land Management official criticized the DOI announcement, calling it a “totally political decision” that is “not based on science, climate change, or biological resources.”
The DOI statement, however, claims that President Biden is delivering on the most aggressive climate agenda in American history by securing record investments in climate resilience and environmental justice, reducing America’s reliance on oil, and protecting American families from the impact of Putin’s war on global energy markets.»DoI initiates rule-making process to protect 13 million acres of land in National Petroleum Reserve«