WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Biden administration has suspended all activities related to the implementation of oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
The action reverses a drilling program that was approved by former President Donald Trump and was met with criticism by environmental groups and Democrats.
Under the Trump administration, the Bureau of Land Management established and began administering an oil and gas program in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. The bureau held a lease sale on January 6, 2021, and subsequently issued 10-year leases on nine tracts covering more than 430,000 acres.
The Department of the Interior announced the suspension Tuesday and said it’s pending the completion of a comprehensive analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The department has been directed to initiate an environmental analysis to review the potential impacts of the leasing program and address any legal deficiencies in the current program’s environmental review under NEPA.
Pending the review, the department says it’s notifying lessees that it’s suspending oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge to determine whether the leases should be reaffirmed, voided or subject to additional mitigation measures.
This latest move from the Biden administration comes after the president issued an executive order on his first day in office that directed the Interior Department to review oil and gas activity in the Arctic Refuge.
“After conducting the required review, the department identified defects in the underlying Record of Decision supporting the leases, including the lack of analysis of a reasonable range of alternatives in the EIS conducted under NEPA,” wrote the department in a statement.