Apr 19, 2024 - Energy & Environment

Biden blocks new oil and natural gas leases in key Alaskan region

Photo of Musk oxen in the national petroleum reserve, northwest Alaska.

Musk oxen in the National Petroleum Reserve in northwest Alaska. Photo: Prisma Bildagentur/Getty Images

This Interior Department on Friday morning imposed major new limits on resource development in fragile northern Alaska ecosystems.

Why it matters: They come as President Biden appeals to green-focused voters in his tough reelection campaign.

Driving the news: Interior unveiled final plans to protect over 13 million acres in the 23 million acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, with an outright ban on new oil and gas leases on 10.6 million acres.

  • Those limits span roughly half the massive Arctic expanse, where big hydrocarbon deposits underlie sensitive wildlife habitat.
  • The NPR-A is where Biden has allowed a scaled-back version of ConocoPhillips' big Willow project elsewhere in the reserve.

In a separate decision, Interior signaled it won't approve the 210-mile Ambler Road, which would have provided access to potential copper and zinc mines.

  • Interior cited risks to Alaska Natives' subsistence hunting and wildlife, among other harms.

What they're saying: Environmental groups applauded and Biden, in a statement, said he's protecting "natural wonders."

  • "Alaska's majestic and rugged lands and waters are among the most remarkable and healthy landscapes in the world, sustaining a vibrant subsistence economy for Alaska Native communities," he said.

The other side: "The message this administration is sending to the dictators in Iran, China and Russia is this: We won't use our resources to strengthen our country — but you can use your resources to strengthen your country," Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan told reporters Thursday.

  • The American Petroleum Institute said the White House is acting against U.S. energy security interests and thwarting development that would bolster Alaskan communities.

Catch up quick: These actions come a day after Interior finalized a separate rule designed to put conservation on "equal footing" with energy and other uses in vast tracts of public lands.

What we're watching: Potential litigation — and reversals if the White House changes hands.

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