The american president Joe Biden announced a moratorium on oil exploration and extraction and gas at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, ANWR.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is about 78,000 square kilometers and is the natural reserve most pristine and most extensive in the United States.
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The so-called giant wilderness of Alaska It is home to polar bears, caribou, reindeer and waterfowl, among other species.
What exactly did Biden order?
President Biden se he had pledged during his campaign to protect the Arctic national refuge. Once in office, he ordered the Department of the Interior to review the leases already granted for exploration parcels.
In a statement Tuesday, the Department of the Interior said it had “identified flaws in the underlying record of the decision supporting the leases, including the lack of analysis of a range of alternatives ”required by law environmental.
White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy claimed that Biden “He believes that America’s national treasures are cultural and economic cornerstones of our country.”
The president “appreciates the prompt action of the Department of the Interior to suspend all leases pending a review of the decisions made in the last days of the last administration that could have changed the character of this special place forever,” he added.
Since taking office, Biden signed executive orders aimed at freezing new leases of oil and gas on public land and is committed to dramatically reducing carbon emissions.
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But his government disappointed environmental groups last week when the Justice Department defended a Trump-era decision to approve a major oil project in another region of Alaska, in the National Petroleum Reserve, an area owned by the federal government.
The New York Times noted that environmental groups criticize Biden not only for that measure, but for “pass up an opportunity to block the controversial Dakota Access pipeline and for upholding a Trump-era decision to grant licenses for oil and gas exploration on public lands in the state of Wyoming. “
How did you get to this point?
The exploration of hydrocarbons in the Arctic refuge was a subject of contention for decades. This oil-rich region is a critically important site for many species and is considered sacred by the Gwich’in people.
Those in favor of oil extraction in the refuge argue that it could generate significant sums of money and provide jobs for people in Alaska. Those who oppose express their concern for environmental and climate threats.
Days before his presidential term ended in January, Trump went ahead with the first oil lease sale in the region’s coastal plain as part of its drive to develop greater domestic fossil fuel production.
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But the sale received little interest from the oil and gas industry. The companies said they were focusing their spending on renewable energy, amid a huge drop in oil prices. Several large American banks they said they would not finance exploration in the area.
In total, 11 parcels were auctioned, covering just over 2,000 square km, according to the Washington Post. The sale raised less than $ 15 million, much less than the government expected.
Most of the leases were granted to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state agency. While estimates suggest there are around 11 billion barrels of oil below the refuge, the reserve has no roads or other infrastructure, making it a very expensive place to drill.
What were the reactions to the suspension?
Arctic tribal leaders praised the decision. “I want to thank President Biden and the Department of the Interior for recognizing the mistakes made against our people by the last administration and for putting us on the right path,” he said in a statement. Tonya garnett, coordinator of special projects for the tribal government of the native village of Venetie.
“This shows that, regardless of the odds, the voices of our tribes are important.” Kristen Miller, Acting Executive Director of the Alaska Wildlife League, Alaska Wilderness League, said that suspending the leases was “a step in the right direction.”
But The Biden administration’s move was criticized in a joint statement by Republican Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski., the representative Don young and the governor of Alaska, Mike Dunleavy.
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“This action has no other purpose than to obstruct the economy of Alaska and putting our energy security at risk “said Murkowski, who has represented Alaska in the Senate since 2002.
Dunleavy added that the leases sold by the Trump administration “are valid and cannot be withdrawn by the federal government.” Oil revenues are critical to Alaska, where each resident receives an annual check of about $ 1,600 each year from a state fund.
Dunleavy previously said that opening the shelter for the “Responsible resource development” could “put more oil in our pipelines, provide jobs for Alaskans, bring billions of dollars of investment to our state, support American energy independence, and provide critical revenue to our state and local communities. “
The Export and Industrial Development Authority of the state, The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, noted that she was disappointed by the decision and had no reason to believe that the environmental analysis was inadequate.
What will happen now?
The Department of the Interior noted in its order Tuesday that it will now take place “A new and exhaustive analysis of the possible environmental impacts of oil and gas extraction ” at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Analysts point out that the suspension of leases is temporary and it does not mean that oil exploration at the refuge will not take place in the future. If it is determined that the environmental impact study requirements were not met, the concessions could be canceled. The dispute could end in court.