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Legal Battle Awaits Biden’s Alaskan Oil Crackdown

The Biden administration’s decision to restrict oil activity in Alaska last week will likely face at least one legal challenge, E&E News reported Monday.
President Joe Biden (File Photo) By Nick Pope, DCNF.

The Biden administration’s decision to restrict oil activity in Alaska last week will likely face at least one legal challenge, E&E News reported Monday.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) declared Wednesday its intention to retroactively cancel seven leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) owned by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA), asserting that the environmental review process for the Trump-era sales was inadequate, according to E&E News.

The AIDEA, a public corporation that promotes economic growth in the state by providing various types of financing, called the cancellations “unlawful” and pledged to fight the decision to invalidate the leases, which total about 365,000 acres.

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“Interior’s action leaves AIDEA one choice, we have to go to court to protect our rights in the ANWR leases.” AIDEA said. “This time, we will ask the court to allow us to conduct discovery that could include taking the deposition of Biden’s messenger, Secretary Haaland and possibly other administration officials involved so the real motives are made public.”

In addition to revoking the leases, the administration is planning to introduce new environmental protections for more than 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPRA), which would effectively remove the covered areas from future oil and gas activity, according to Reuters. The NRPA is approximately 23 million acres in size, and it is intended to serve as a reserve oil supply in the event of emergency, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The lease sales in question were mandated by Congress in 2017 to pay for the Trump-era tax cuts of that same year.

“A willingness to circumvent laws passed by Congress has consequences reaching far beyond ANWR’s boundaries, and will impact future development across this country,” AIDEA said, adding that it “will aggressively defend our lease rights and oppose this unlawful action.”

Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin also slammed the Biden administration for its decision, calling the DOI’s moves and their implications “frankly embarrassing.” There have now been 55 executive orders and actions specifically targeting Alaska since President Joe Biden assumed office in 2021, according to Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

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“President Biden is delivering on the most ambitious climate and conservation agenda in history,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a press release announcing her agency’s decisions. “The steps we are taking today further that commitment, based on the best available science and in recognition of the Indigenous Knowledge of the original stewards of this area, to safeguard our public lands for future generations.”

Alaska produced the fourth-most oil of any state in the country in 2021 and 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The Biden administration’s decisions to restrict drilling activity in the state follow a report from the International Energy Administration that oil prices are primed to continue their rise as OPEC+ production cuts take hold in international markets, and a separate Reuters report indicating that Americans could see their heating bills spike if the upcoming winter turns out to be especially cold.

The DOI declined to comment, and the White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

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