For Immediate Release,
September 8, 2021
ANCHORAGE— In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the Biden administration has announced it will reexamine a Trump administration plan to drastically expand western Arctic oil and gas leasing.
The Bureau of Land Management filed a legal memorandum late Tuesday announcing it is reevaluating plans to offer up nearly 18.6 million acres of the western Arctic, known as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Its initial review indicates the plan is inconsistent with President Biden’s Executive Order 13990 — Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis.
“We hope this is the first step toward ending Arctic oil leasing,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney. “It’s a no brainer that new Arctic oil leasing is completely inconsistent with addressing the climate emergency. Any reasonable review will show that the Biden administration must revoke this disastrous plan and start phasing out existing fossil fuel extraction. Anything less than that simply won’t cut it.”
The announcement states that other alternatives to the plan may be more appropriate, although it does not specify what those alternatives are. The bureau says it has not yet decided whether to withdraw or replace the plan.
The Trump administration issued the plan, called the Integrated Activity Plan, in 2020. It replaced an earlier plan issued by the Obama administration that allowed oil leasing on 11.7 million acres, or roughly half, of the reserve.
The reserve is the largest tract of undisturbed public land in the United States, and its 23 million acres are recognized as a globally important ecological resource, home to bears, musk oxen, caribou and millions of migratory birds. The reserve provides calving and migration areas for several caribou herds, which provide vital subsistence resources for more than 40 communities in northern and western Alaska. The area also includes designated critical habitat for polar bears along the coastal areas of the reserve and important habitat for other marine mammals, including ice seals.
Earthjustice filed the case on behalf of the Center and other groups in August 2020. The case is now stayed while the bureau reconsiders the plan. The agency will submit a report on its progress within 120 days.