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Biden indefinitely blocks oil drilling on millions of acres of federal land

By Emily Jacobs,

2023-03-14

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T he Biden administration announced Sunday evening that it will indefinitely block fossil fuel drilling on 16 million acres of federal land in and around Alaska .

News of the decision came through the Interior Department, which announced plans to bar drilling on nearly 3 million acres of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean off the northern coast of Alaska and limit drilling on more than 13 million acres across the National Petroleum Reserve, located in North Slope Borough, Alaska. The National Petroleum Reserve is a vast swath of federal land set aside by Congress for resource development.

CONOCO CEO WARNS BIDEN THAT DOOMING ALASKA OIL PROJECT WOULD HURT HIS OWN AGENDA

Associated Press
Alaska’s North Slope.


"With these actions, President Biden continues to deliver on the most aggressive climate agenda in American history," the Interior Department said in a statement. "He has made the United States a magnet for clean energy manufacturing and jobs. He secured record investments in climate resilience and environmental justice."

"And his economic agenda has put the United States back on track to reach its climate goals for 2030 and 2050, all while reducing America’s reliance on oil and protecting American families from the impact of Putin’s war on global energy markets," the department continued.

The agency revealed that the administration plans to limit future oil production in Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon, and "special areas" of Peard Bay known for their rich wildlife populations. The department also announced plans to halt the development of certain fossil fuel pipeline infrastructure in northern Alaska.

The announcement comes as regulators decide whether or not to allow the $8 billion Willow project, a controversial oil drilling plan in the petroleum reserve.

(ConocoPhillips via AP, File)
An exploratory drilling camp at the proposed site of the Willow oil project on Alaska's North Slope.

The CEO of ConocoPhillips, the company pushing the plan, has warned Biden that blocking or shrinking its project in Alaska would hurt the president's own demand for more production from Big Oil.

Biden administration officials and many Democrats in Congress have criticized oil and gas companies over the last year for not producing more energy in response to high prices. They've also criticized federal lessees for not exploiting more of their active oil and gas leases and drilling permits.

Demonstrators have protested the Willow project, citing environmental concerns. And as Biden weighs a 2024 reelection bid, he faces a massive decision: upset ConocoPhillips and risk scaring Big Oil as a whole or ostracize environmental activists, many of whom are young voters who helped elect him to the presidency in 2020.

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The White House defended Sunday's changes as being critical to ensuring that important habitats for whales, seals, polar bears, and other wildlife “will be protected in perpetuity from extractive development."

The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management is set to decide the fate of Willow as soon as this week.

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