President Joe Biden

Native American Group Sues Biden Admin For Cracking Down On Massive Petroleum Reserve

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden (File)

A Native American group is suing the Biden administration over one of its most aggressive moves against Alaskan oil and gas development.

Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat (VOICE), an organization representing 23 Native American organizations in Alaska, filed suit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) on Friday over the agencies’ decision to massively restrict oil and gas development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A).

VOICE is alleging that the Biden administration ignored Congress’ intent for the NPR-A and walked over the concerns and interests of Native Americans who stand to gain from NPR-A development. 

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The NPR-A is a 23 million acre area in Alaska’s North Slope region that former President Warren Harding first designated as an emergency fuel reserve for the U.S. Navy before being transferred to BLM’s control in 1976, according to BLM.

While the reserve has massive amounts of oil and gas to offer, DOI moved into September 2023 to limit future oil and gas leasing on 13 million acres of the NPR-A by designating that acreage as “special areas,” and also to totally ban future leasing on nearly 11 million NPR-A acres.

“The Final NPR-A Rule is directly contrary to Congress’s stated purpose in creating the NPR-A, which was to increase domestic supplies of oil, and Congress’s mandate that BLM conduct ‘an expeditious program of competitive leasing of oil and gas’ in the NPR-A,” the lawsuit states. “For over 40 years BLM managed the NPR-A consistent with these Congressional directives, in regular consultation with local stakeholders, and successfully balanced the NPR-A’s primary purpose of furthering oil and gas exploration and development with appropriate conservation and protection measures. Not anymore. The Final NPR-A Rule is a complete departure from this long-standing management practice that will unilaterally impede economic development on the North Slope without Congressional authorization.”

The NPR-A provides crucial revenue to local Native American communities to pay for things like education, healthcare and sewage systems, according to VOICE, which credits wealth created by oil and gas development with significantly increasing the life expectancy for Native Americans living in the region.

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“Our complaint speaks for the North Slope Iñupiat’s voices whom the federal government has chosen to silence, stonewall, and scorn since it blindsided us with its unilateral mandates in September 2023,” Nagruk Harcharek, president of VOICE, said in a statement about the lawsuit. “It is unfortunate that we have been forced to turn to the courts for resolution on this seriously flawed rule and the process that produced it. If the administration would have meaningfully engaged with the North Slope Iñupiat, we would likely not be in this position today.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has characterized its NPR-A actions as beneficial to Native American communities. DOI said that “Tribal Nations have occupied lands now within the NPR-A since time immemorial” and that numerous communities “continue to rely on subsistence activities in the reserve” in its September 2023 press release accompanying its proposal.

The NPR-A dispute is not the first situation in which the Biden administration’s massive climate and social justice agenda has irked some of the Native American communities that the federal government claims to protect with its policies.

Native American-owned entities sued the administration in June over its decision to essentially kill the Pebble mining project in Alaska, while some tribes also pursued litigation to stop the massive SunZia transmission line project for a green energy development in the Southwest.

DOI declined to comment, and BLM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Daily Caller News Foundation

First published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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