Tuesday, June 15

United States: Biden Suspends Arctic Oil and Gas Drilling | Climate and Environment

Protest against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge last October.
Protest against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge last October.Tom Williams / GETTY

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, has decided to suspend the auction of oil and gas extraction contracts to energy companies in the so-called Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, thus correcting one of the most controversial decisions made by the previous Donald Trump administration on environmental matters. “In light of alleged legal deficiencies (…), including the insufficiency of the review required by the National Environmental Policy Law, the Secretary of the Interior shall, as appropriate and in accordance with the law, establish a temporary moratorium on all Government activities related to the implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program, (…) in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ”says the order published Tuesday by the Department of the Interior. It is an issue that has faced Democrats and Republicans for four decades and that could end up in court.

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The Trump Administration auctioned off the right to drill in the coastal plain of the Arctic refuge, home to hundreds of thousands of caribou and migratory waterfowl, as well as polar bears from the southern Beaufort Sea, just two weeks before the inauguration of the President Biden. The new Democratic government has decided to publish this order to block the leases. In its decision, it argues the problems created in the environmental review process. According to the order, there will now be “a new and exhaustive analysis of the possible environmental impacts of the oil and gas program.”

The “review of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program (…) has identified multiple legal deficiencies,” the regulation insists, including the lack of adequate analysis of a reasonable range of requirements established by environmental legislation. .

In the regulations issued by the head of the Interior, Deb Haaland, a temporary moratorium is requested on all activities related to these leases in order to carry out “a complete new analysis of the possible environmental impacts of the oil and gas program.”

Since 2017, various environmental groups have fought in court to prevent the arrival of oil companies to the Arctic, warning of the risks it poses to the environment. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers an area of ​​7.7 million hectares and is located to the northeast of Alaska, in the north it borders the Arctic Ocean and to the east with the Canadian region of Yukon. It is the largest nature reserve in the United States and the most pristine. The territory is one of the main breeding centers for reindeer and polar bears. In 1960, it was declared a federal protected area by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and in 1980 President Jimmy Carter signed a law to ensure its conservation.

In 2016, and a few weeks after the end of his term, President Barack Obama banned the exploration of oil fields in the Arctic Ocean, in the face of the threat that Trump would approve the carrying out of energy activities in the region, as he finally did in recent days. of his mandate.


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