STATEMENT: Biden administration takes steps to protect Arctic from drilling

Media Contacts
Steve Blackledge

Senior Director, Conservation America Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is undertaking three initiatives that could protect pristine arctic land and waters from the scourge of oil drilling.

The Interior Department kicked off a rulemaking process Wednesday to protect more than 13 million acres of critical habitat in the Western Arctic Reserve. The public will have the opportunity to provide its input during an official “comment period.” If a strong rule comes to fruition, it would fulfill the Biden administration’s promise to protect previously designated “special areas” going forward — a promise made when the federal government approved the controversial Willow Project.

The administration also launched the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for the coastal plain drilling program in the Arctic Refuge. This process also includes a public comment period, after which the Department of the Interior will issue new procedures for implementing the Arctic Refuge coastal plain drilling program. The drilling program is required by the 2017 Tax Act.

Finally, the administration announced the cancellation of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority’s  (AIDEA) leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. AIDEA had been the only remaining leaseholder in the refuge that got its lease in the Trump administration’s 2021 sale.

In response, Environment America Research & Policy Center’s Senior Conservation Campaigns Director Steve Blackledge  issued the following statement.

“The Arctic is like nowhere else on Earth, hosting roaming caribou herds, a kaleidoscope of migratory birds and ice floes dotted with seals and polar bears. These majestic creatures are already struggling with habitat fragmentation and climate change. To give these critters a fighting chance, together, we need to safeguard what’s left of their habitats. That means no leasing and no drilling.

“The cancellation of AIDEA’s leases on the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge is welcome news. The other coastal plain drilling program leaseholders have already pulled out of their leases. This decision closes the door on the rushed and flawed 2021 lease sale once and for all.

“These rulemaking opportunities will let the Biden administration protect huge, important areas from the fossil fuel extraction poised to soil them. The president continues to take big actions to protect more nature, from the deserts of Nevada to the forests and canyons of Arizona and now, the tundra of Alaska.”