Biden Administration Restricts Oil Drilling and Mining in Alaska

The U.S. Administration finalized on Friday a strategy to help protect federal lands, which includes restricting access to drilling and mining in a large part of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A).

The Public Lands Rule is aimed at helping safeguard the health of America’s public lands by ensuring that the U.S. protects clean water and wildlife habitat, restores land and waters that need it, and makes informed management decisions based on science, data, and Indigenous knowledge, the Interior Department’s the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said.

The finalized rule restricts access to drilling and mining on more than 13 million acres in the NPR-A, as the U.S. Administration proposed last year. The new regulations for the NPR-A “would ensure maximum protection for the more than 13 million acres of Special Areas in the reserve, while supporting subsistence activities for Alaska Native communities,” the Interior said in September when it proposed the rule.

Commenting on the finalization of the rule, U.S. President Joe Biden said today “I am proud that my Administration is taking action to conserve more than 13 million acres in the Western Arctic and to honor the culture, history, and enduring wisdom of Alaska Natives who have lived on and stewarded these lands since time immemorial.”

The rule doesn’t concern existing developments and projects, including the Willow oil project, led by ConocoPhillips, which the Biden Administration approved last year, angering environmentalists and some of the Democrat base.

The oil industry and the leading Republican Senators from Alaska criticized the final rule, arguing that it would adversely affect the state’s revenues and worsen the local business climate.

Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said a day before the expected Interior announcement that “This administration is deliberately undertaking policies to punish Americans and undermine our strengths while continuing to help our adversaries.”

“Tomorrow, they’re going to undermine America’s national security interests even further by announcing the shutdown of two of the most important energy and critical mineral developments in our country: the National Petroleum Reserve of Alaska (NPR-A) and Alaska’s Ambler Mining District,” Senator Sullivan added.

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