WASHINGTON — The Interior Department announced Wednesday it will cancel the last remaining oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and move to prevent drilling in 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The Biden administration asserts the ANWR lease sale held in 2021, in the final days of the Trump’s administration, violated federal law.
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state agency, was the sole owner of the 10-year leases covering 365,000 acres in the refuge, after two private companies dropped the only other leases acquired in the sale.
The agency on Wednesday also said it would release a new draft environmental statement analyzing the potential impact of oil drilling in the Arctic refuge, opening a public comment period. A Republican-led Congress approved drilling in the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act.
The department also announced it would block future oil and gas leasing in nearly 3 million acres in the Beaufort Sea, adding to protections for the Beaufort Sea Planning Area and the Obama administration’s withdrawal of the Chukchi Sea Planning Area.
The department also said it would increase protections in 13 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, close to half of the reserve.
The Interior Department added protections to prevent offshore drilling in the federal waters of the Beaufort Sea in March — a day before the administration approved ConocoPhillips’ $8 billion oil development project, Willow, in the reserve.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.