Juneau, Alaska: In an aggressive move that angered Republicans, the Biden administration canceled the seven remaining oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday, overturning sales held in the Trump administration’s waning days, and proposed stronger protections against development on vast swaths of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The Department of Interior’s scrapping of the leases comes after the Biden administration disappointed environmental groups earlier this year by approving the Willow oil project in the petroleum reserve, a massive project by ConocoPhillips Alaska that could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day on Alaska’s petroleum-rich North Slope. Protections are proposed for more than 20,000 square miles (51,800 square kilometers) of land in the reserve in the western Arctic.
Some critics who said the approval of Willow flew in the face of Biden’s pledges to address climate change lauded Wednesday’s announcement. But they said more could be done.
“Alaska is home to many of America’s most breathtaking natural wonders and culturally significant areas. 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 said in a statement.
His actions “meet the urgency of the climate crisis” and will “protect our lands and waters for generations to come,” Biden said.