President Biden followed through on two major campaign pledges in his first 48 hours in office, and Alaska’s bright energy future dimmed significantly as a result.
The first executive order (EO) halted development of the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The second order from the Department of the Interior places a 60-day moratorium on new development of oil and gas on federal lands. Unfortunately, these are just the opening salvos of an all-out attack on Alaska’s energy workers, their families and the cornerstone of our state’s economy.
The ANWR EO came just days after the Bureau of Land Management concluded the first-ever lease sale in the 1002. The issuance of nine leases ended a decades-long effort that started when Congress authorized development in the area in 1980. This is something those groups fighting ANWR development continue to gloss over, but it certainly deserves recognition.
But, unsurprisingly, Biden’s mandate dismisses that fact and follows through on a pledge from his campaign website made public early in his run to the White House. This day-one promise, under his “Climate Plan” page, reads:
“We will be…protecting America’s natural resources by permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas impacted by President Trump’s attack on federal lands and waters…”
Clearly, this is not an issue that he wanted to speak with American workers and families about. His mind was made up from the beginning, and he wasted no time putting his political agenda above a crucial industry. His EO states:
“In light of the alleged legal deficiencies underlying the program, including the inadequacy of the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, place a temporary moratorium on all activities of the Federal Government relating to the implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program.”
Biden’s second order may not have received as much media attention, but it is just as crippling to a state where 62% of all lands are under federal management. On Thursday, the Interior Department issued a decision to block all new drilling operations on federal lands for the next 60 days. The action is fueling concern that it is simply the first step towards a permanent ban in the future, which was another campaign promise made under Biden’s “Climate Plan.” Specifically, this plan states that he will be “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.”
As I noted, much of Alaska’s potential oil and gas fields lie in federally managed areas. The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and other areas have potentially significant fields. Continued world-class, safe and responsible development of the billions of barrels of oil and metric tons of gas would bring thousands of jobs to Alaska – adding to an industry that already fuels over one-quarter of all private sector employment in the state, and brings significant revenue to state and local governments.
With vowed actions to further limit development on federal lands and waters, to forcibly transition from traditional energy sources to “green” ones, and inflict Alaskan households with tens of thousands of dollars in increased costs under Green New Deal-like policies, the Biden administration is already showing it isn’t going to be friendly to Alaska.
Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a nationwide non-profit focused on supporting energy workers, while pushing back on radical green groups and the ideologues who fund them. Contact him at Rick@PowerTheFuture.com.