Alaska’s Republican Governor, Mike Dunleavy, has claimed that the Biden administration is in violation of the law by revoking oil and gas leases in a federal wildlife sanctuary previously granted to a state entity. Dunleavy voiced his concerns on the “John Solomon Reports” podcast, stating that the U.S. President is consciously violating the law. He referenced a 2017 Congressional bill mandating the sale of specific acres under the Tax Act, emphasizing that the administration is aware of its illegality.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland recently verified the decision to rescind the leases. The Trump administration awarded seven leases to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. These leases were suspended by President Joe Biden, who had campaigned on wildlife conservation, shortly after he assumed office in January 2021.
The Department of the Interior decided to cancel the leases in Alaska’s petroleum reserve after the Biden administration approved the Willow oil project by ConocoPhillips, which could produce 180,000 barrels of oil a day. This Willow oil decision disappointed environmental groups, but now, more than 20,000 square miles (51,800 square kilometers) of land in the western Arctic are to be protected.
On Wednesday, Haaland, who received backlash for her involvement in approving the Willow project, stated that no one would be permitted to drill for oil in one of the most vulnerable ecosystems on the planet.
This move is expected to upset the energy sector, which is currently experiencing record production levels in the U.S., even as it grapples with reduced supplies from Saudi Arabia and Russia, leading to increased gas prices.
New regulations have also been proposed by the Biden administration to protect ecologically sensitive areas in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, preventing oil and gas drilling to maintain their wilderness, cultural, and natural values.
Many politicians in Alaska, including some Democrats, have been advocating for oil and gas drilling in the refuge because of the economic benefits it provides to indigenous communities that have limited job opportunities. These same leaders urged President Biden to approve the Willow project, citing the same reasons.
“I am deeply frustrated by the reversal of these leases in ANWR,” said U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat, using a common shorthand for the refuge.
Dunleavy further commented on the situation, predicting legal actions from the state and other stakeholders. According to Dunleavy, American citizens will ultimately be burdened financially by this decision.
Tim Stewart, the President of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, also criticized the administration’s recent choice, forecasting impending legal challenges. He expressed on the same podcast that this unwarranted cancellation breaches multiple legal agreements between the federal government and the energy industry. Stewart warned that while the administration might face legal repercussions, the real losers in this scenario are the American public, who will end up paying more for goods and services across the country.