Delegation Rebukes Biden Administration Effort to Block Development in ANWR

WASHINGTON, D.C.--U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and U.S. Congressman Don Young, all R-Alaska, issued the following statement after President Joe Biden announced a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the non-wilderness Coastal Plain (1002 Area) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

“Today, President Biden announced that he will pick up where the Obama administration left off by conducting a review of multiple rulemakings that are critical to Alaska and by placing a temporary moratorium on leasing activities in the Coastal Plain. At a time when the United States, and especially Alaska, is struggling to deal with the impacts of COVID-19, I am astounded to see that the Biden administration’s “day one” priority is put our economy, jobs, and nation’s security at risk,” said Senator Murkowski. “Not only has Alaska proven time and time again we have the highest environmental standards when it comes to our responsible resource development but this right was guaranteed by the federal government more than 40 years ago when ANILCA was enacted. It is time to hold true on this long overdue promise. In 2017, I was proud to author Title II of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which opened just 2,000 acres of our 365 million acre state to responsible energy development. In the past month, we have seen significant progress with the sale, signing, and issuing of leases in the non-wilderness 1002 Area. The Biden administration must faithfully implement the law and allow for that good progress to continue.”

“Well that was fast. Today, in his inaugural address, President Biden called for national unity and healing. However, just hours earlier, his administration took their cues from radical environmentalists in issuing punitive and divisive actions against Alaska, many other resource development states, and whole sectors of our economy,” said Senator Sullivan. “Let me be clear: As we are struggling to rebuild our economy, these directives announced today will cause real harm to millions of Americans, and thousands of Alaskans. Jobs will be lost. Families will struggle. Futures will be imperiled. The American people did not give President Biden a mandate to kill good-paying jobs and curry favor with coastal elites, and I will do everything in my power—working with the delegation, the state, and all of my fellow Alaskans—to fight back against these job-killing orders and regulatory reviews.”

"It is not surprising, though no less disappointing, that President Biden is continuing Obama-era attacks against Alaska. By reviewing federal rules that Alaska benefits from, and by placing a moratorium on energy development in ANWR, President Biden has surrendered to his party's environmental extremists. I want the President to know this: Alaskans have shown for decades that energy development and environmental protection can go hand in hand. These executive actions serve only to hinder our state's economy, stifle energy independence, and prevent the Alaska Native community of Kaktovik from responsibly using their lands," said Congressman Young. "When President Carter signed ANILCA into law over 40 years ago, Alaskans were promised the right to drill on the Coastal Plain. We have conducted an extensive environmental review and successfully carried out lease sales. This is not the time to roll back our progress in ANWR, especially amid an economic downturn caused by a global pandemic. I call on President Biden to honor the law and the will of Alaskans, and allow our state's energy projects to continue uninterrupted." 

On January 6, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held the first lease sale for lands in the 1002 Area of ANWR. On January 19, BLM announced the signing and issuing of leases on nine of the tracts that received qualifying bids from the lease sale. Results of the January 6 lease sale are available on BLM’s website.


The second title of H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which became law in December 2017, authorizes the surface development of up to 2,000 federal acres of the non-wilderness Coastal Plain (roughly one ten-thousandth of all of ANWR). The U.S. Geological Survey estimates this area contains 10.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil that could be sent to states like California, which has grown significantly more dependent on foreign oil as Alaska production has declined. Alaskan oil and gas production will continue to play a key role in maintaining American energy security.

Alaska has a strong record of responsible resource development. The footprint of drilling pads on the North Slope has declined by 80 percent since the 1970s, while new and safer technology has expanded the reach of underground drilling by 4,000 percent. The result is that less land is being used to develop resources than ever before; many modern sites cover just a few acres and are miles apart. The Central Arctic Caribou herd, which ranges throughout Prudhoe Bay, has seen its population grow for sustained periods alongside responsible development on the North Slope. 

ANWR spans 19.3 million acres, an area of land roughly equal in size to South Carolina, in northeast Alaska. In 1980, Congress designated more than eight million acres within ANWR – an area of land significantly larger than Maryland – as federal wilderness as part of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. That same legislation set aside the 1.57-million acre Coastal Plain for petroleum exploration and potential future development, which is supported by a majority of Alaskans.

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