| 19 June 2024, Wednesday |

US: Biden blocks drilling in Alaska wildlife reserve

On Thursday, the Biden administration declared a prohibition on new oil and gas drilling across an extensive area in Alaska.
The US Interior Department said it was also canceling seven remaining oil and gas leases that were authorized under former President Donald Trump.

Those seven leases were in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which lies to the east of the ecologically vulnerable National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A).

The new plan protects about 10.6 million acres or 4.3 million hectares, which is about 40% of the NPR-A.

The NPR-A is rich in oil. The new plan would also limit, but not outright ban, drilling in an additional 2.4 million acres of the NPR-A.

The ecologically significant region is home to threatened species like grizzly and polar bears as well as hundreds of thousands of migratory birds.
“Alaska is home to many of America’s most breathtaking natural wonders and culturally significant areas,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

“As the climate crisis warms the Arctic more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, we have a responsibility to protect this treasured region for all ages.”

Biden came under fire earlier this year for approving a controversial drilling project in Alaska, known as the Willow oil project.

Opponents of the project argued in a lawsuit that it poses risks to Arctic communities and wildlife.

Critics say decisions ‘defy all common sense’
Observers say the latest plan to protect regions of Alaska may be aimed at curbing some of the criticisms directed at the Willow oil drilling project.

But some politicians criticized the new plan. Alaska is heavily dependent on oil revenues and the state’s politicians said Biden was undermining US energy security.

“These decisions are illegal, reckless (and) defy all common sense,” said Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Democrat Mary Peltola, a member of the House of Representatives, also said she was “deeply frustrated” at what she described as a failure by the Biden government to listen to local desires.

  • DW