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Biden Administration Freezes Oil Leases in Alaska Arctic Refuge

The Department of Interior has suspended all oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) until a review of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is complete.

Opening the refuge was a signature move by the Trump Administration and was part of the 2017 “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” The first lease sale in late January 2021 elicited just three bids and $14.4 million in potential revenue. None of the bids were from major oil and gas operators.

The review and analysis could have larger implications if the agency decides to nullify the leases or impose burdensome regulations on drilling. This decision is a possibility given President Biden’s emphasis on climate change and his “whole government” approach to climate change.

On the other hand, the Administration recently defended an oil development project in the state’s National Petroleum Reserve, west of ANWR, a move strongly supported by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). 

Similar to the Biden Administration’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal lands pending the outcome of a review, it is not clear how long the ANWR review will take. The Council’s Government Affairs team is seeking clarification on the scope and duration of the pause on new leases.

If you are interested in engaging on these or other policy issues, contact SVP Government Affairs Tim Tarpley for more information on the Council’s Government Affairs Committee.


Maria Suarez, Director Government Affairs, writes about industry-specific policies for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, Council activities and more.
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