As gas prices soar across the country, undoubtedly hampering the travel plans of millions of Americans as summer approaches, President Joe Biden’s administration, unsurprisingly, dealt another blow to America’s energy independence.
According to The Hill, the Biden administration announced this week that leases issued by former President Donald Trump’s administration for oil drilling in the Alaska-based Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) have been suspended, pending further environmental reviews.
Opponents of Trump’s idea to let controlled and safe drilling happen in the nearly 20 million square acres Alaskan wildlife reserve have spent years expressing concern about the possible negative impact on local wildlife, even suggesting that drilling activities could contribute to climate change.
The official order to suspend the leases, which were issued in 2017 under Trump, was signed on Tuesday by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, citing the current analysis’s “failure to adequately analyze a reasonable range of alternatives.”
Critics of the move to begin drilling at ANWR were thrilled with the announcement, including National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, who praised the Biden administration for making the move.
“President Biden believes America’s national treasures are cultural and economic cornerstones of our country and he is grateful for the prompt action by the Department of the Interior to suspend all leasing pending a review of decisions made in the last administration’s final days that could have changed the character of this special place forever,” McCarthy said.
The new environmental analysis that will take place could add further restrictions to drilling activities or, as many environmental activists hope for, a total nullification of the leases.
Though the decision to follow through on his campaign promise of keeping drilling rigs out of ANWR was appreciated by many, the news comes on the heels of the Biden administration announcing its support for the Trump-approved, ConocoPhillips’ Willow drilling project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which angered environmentalists.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) had previously estimated that up to 11.8 billion barrels of oil lie beneath the Alaskan coastal plain where ANWR is located.