Vol. 26, No4 Week of January 24, 2021
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Nine ANWR leases issued, Biden signs exec order halting progress

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Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

As part of 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations signed shortly after his inauguration on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden signed a sweeping executive order on climate change that halts the oil and gas leasing program in the non-wilderness part of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (the 1002 Area), revokes a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline (see story this issue), and carries out several other environmental protection actions.

Biden’s order places “a temporary moratorium on all activities of the federal government relating to the implementation” of the 1002 Area leasing program, as established by a Record of Decision signed Aug. 17. (The second title of H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Trump signed into law in December 2017, authorizes the surface development of up to 2,000 federal acres of the 1002 area in the 19.3 million acre refuge and requires two 1002 lease sales by the end of 2024.)

The new executive order comes just one day after Interior’s Bureau of Land Management issued nine of 11 leases from the first 1002 lease sale on Jan. 6. Dropping the two most easterly leases that the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority bid on, the other nine leases were issued to AIDEA (7 leases) and one each to Knik Arm Services and 88 Energy’s Alaska operating subsidiary Regenerate Energy (see adjacent map in the print and pdf versions of this story).

When asked why only nine of the 11 leases were issued on Jan. 19, Lesli J. Ellis-Wouters of BLM’s Alaska office told Petroleum News in an email, “We issued leases for those tracts that we received the required paperwork.”

As for Biden, his executive order came as no surprise because he opposes oil and gas leasing in ANWR and promised to “permanently” protect it during his presidential campaign. The temporary moratorium stops short of his campaign pledge to permanently ban oil and gas leasing and development on public land and waters, but during a Jan. 20 press briefing White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated there was more to come to honor that commitment.

Dunleavy, delegation outraged

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a statement Jan. 20 on Biden’s order, saying, “As a candidate, Joe Biden campaigned on stopping oil and gas development on federal lands. Make no mistake about it, President Biden appears to be making good on his promise to turn Alaska into a large national park.”

“Alaska does responsible oil and gas development in the Arctic better than anyone, and yet our economic future is at risk should this line of attack on our sovereignty and well-being continue. Development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, building roads to resources, the mining of critical minerals and rare earths, connection to life saving air transport for villagers in King Cove and more are all in the hands of an Administration that looks at Alaska as a territory or colony, as opposed to an equal State in the Union,” he said.

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and U.S. Congressman Don Young, all R-Alaska, also issued statements of outrage after Biden announced the temporary moratorium.

“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,” Murkowski said. “It is time to hold true on this long overdue promise.”

In 2017, she noted, “I was proud to author Title II of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. … The Biden administration must faithfully implement the law” and allow for the “good progress” made under the Trump administration “to continue.”

“Well that was fast,” Sullivan said. “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.”

“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,” Sullivan continued. … 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,” he said.

Young was not surprised, though it was “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.”

Working group reestablished

Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order also directs agencies to review national monument boundaries and reestablishes the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, which was formed under the Obama administration. It sought to account for harm caused by emissions in agency rulemaking.

The Obama administration assessed a $50 per metric ton price on carbon, while the Trump administration a mere $7 per metric ton cost.


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