Biden Safeguards 16 Million Acres in Alaska


Ice flows on the ocean water at the Turnagain Arm outside of Anchorage, Alaska in springtime with snow-topped mountains in the background. | Image by Warewardson, Shutterstock

President Biden has announced intentions to safeguard 16 million acres of land and water in Alaska, in addition to preventing further oil and gas leasing in the federal waters of the Arctic Ocean.

President Biden, under Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, is protecting roughly 2.8 million acres of land that will be listed as indefinitely off-limits for future oil and gas leasing. The land is near the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) in the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean, per The U.S. Department of Interior.

Former President Barack Obama previously withdrew the Chukchi Sea Planning Area from oil and gas leasing as well as the majority of the Beaufort Sea in 2016. President Biden’s decision is now building upon those made by President Obama.

The administration will strengthen statewide protections and consider new federal laws to restrict oil and gas leasing on Alaska’s 13 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve. The proposal would limit use in the Utukok Uplands, Teshekpuk Lake, Kasegaluk Lagoon, Colville River, and Peard Bay Special Areas, each of which will be designated as “Special Areas in recognition of their significant natural and historical values,” per The U.S. Department of Interior.

The American Petroleum Institute spoke out against the withdrawal, saying President Biden is sending “mixed signals” to the American people and the petroleum industry.

“In the current energy crisis, the Biden administration should be focused on strengthening U.S. energy security and standing with the working families of Alaska by supporting the responsible development of federal lands and waters — not acting to restrict it,” Frank Macchiarola, API’s senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs, said in a statement, per Politico. “We urge the administration to end the mixed signals on energy policy and focus instead on real solutions for the American people.”

The news comes as the administration prepares to authorize the Willow oil drilling project in the Alaskan Arctic. The new regulations would not impact the Willow oil drilling project, which is expected to produce over 180,000 barrels of oil a day.

The Willow oil project has become a major topic of controversy. 

Christy Goldfuss, a former Obama White House official, said she was disappointed that the Biden administration chose to approve the project. 

“This decision is bad for the climate, bad for the environment, and bad for the Native Alaska communities who oppose this and feel their voices were not heard,” Goldfuss said, per Fortune.

In contrast, Mike Dunleavy, Governor of Alaska, said that the jobs and resources provided would be beneficial to the state. 

“If you care about the environment, we need to produce resources in Alaska. If you care about social justice, we need to produce resources here in Alaska. If you care about enriching people and not dictators, we need to produce resources here in Alaska,” said Dunleavy, per the Institute for Energy Research.

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8 days ago

As I understand it via a seasoned oil exec, the north slope of Alaska alone contains enough oil reserves to supply the entire United States with oil for over 100 years.