Jan 20, 2021 - Science

Biden will temporarily halt oil and gas leasing in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Photo of polar bear raising a paw to the camera

A polar bear at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Steven Kazlowski/Barcroft Medi via Getty Images

President-elect Biden on day one will begin his attempts to close off the prospect of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with an executive order that places a temporary moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing activities.

Driving the news: ANWR is an ecologically rich part of Alaska, whose oil resources are unknown but could be vast. Republicans and oil companies have tried to drill there for decades.

Reality check via Axios' Ben Geman: Leasing in ANWR is required under a 2017 law, so Biden can't just wish it away. That said, there are several administrative levers he can pull to try and thwart it, including trying to indefinitely delay review processes and legal maneuvers.

The big picture: Biden made climate change and moving away from fossil fuels a central focus of his campaign.

  • Much of Biden's agenda seeks to undo Trump's rollback of climate policies, which has not only hurt the environment, but also Native Americans who are impacted by the effects of drilling.
  • “The impact of the Trump administration on emissions has been significant, but the actual regulatory rollbacks were only part of it,” Trevor Houser, partner at the consulting and research firm Rhodium Group, told Axios' Amy Harder in November. “The bigger impact was four years of lost federal policy action.”
  • Last year tied 2016 as the warmest year ever recorded.

Of note: The new president will also move to rejoin the Paris climate agreement on day one.

Go deeper: Climate priorities of 2021

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