The coastal depths of the Alaskan Arctic are safe from fossil fuel drilling – for the time being, at least. The Biden administration has temporarily suspended oil and gas drilling leases to Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, pushing back against the Trump administration’s controversial move. Environmental groups, conservationists and tribal groups have encouraged the decision, but some Republican politicians have been unhappy.
On Monday, June 1, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the suspension of all activities related to the implementation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refugee Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Lease Activities. The decision will then be reviewed by the National Environmental Policy Act who will look to assess the potential impacts of drilling in the region. The move follows an executive order from President Biden on the opening day in January. The question of fossil fuel drilling in the coastal plains of Arctic national wildlife refugees has shown that one of the longest and largest environmental battles in recent U.S. history has been the fight against oil companies and Republicans on behalf of indigenous and conservation groups.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge includes 78,000 square kilometers (30,100 square miles) of tunda and wetlands roaming the Alaska North Operal region in an incredible range of American biodiversity, including polar bears, grizzly bears, black bears, leopards, black bears, Wolverines, Martens and Beavers. Much of the controversy in Tarpun focuses specifically on the refugee coastal plain, known as the “1002 region,” which includes the largest Caribou jump in America, the main calving ground of the Perkupine group. Environmentalists and some indigenous groups have been working to preserve the region’s wildlife and heritage since talks began in the late 1970s to open “1002 zones” for fossil fuel exploration and industrial development.
Under Trump, the U.S. government began auctioning deep oil drilling leases in this disputed area. Proponents of the plan say it will “support energy security, job creation and economic growth”, but critics point out how the region’s unique biodiversity, as well as many indigenous groups, are threatened with extinction. As such, tribal and conservation groups have welcomed the decision to grant a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities in the region. While this week’s news is welcome, the Arctic National Wildlife Refugee has advised opponents of drilling that the Biden administration’s commitment to protecting the environment needs to go further.