The ban announced on Wednesday affects 4.3 million hectares of land – an area the size of Denmark – and about 40 percent of Alaska’s federally owned National Oil Reserve (NPRA). The area is an important habitat for polar and grizzly bears, caribou, and hundreds of thousands of migratory birds.
The US President said in a statement: “Alaska is home to many of America’s amazing natural wonders and areas of cultural significance.” He added: “With the Arctic warming due to the climate crisis at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the world, it is our responsibility to protect this valuable region (…).”
The announcement came on the heels of the highly controversial authorization of the so-called Willow Project in the area. Despite strong criticism from environmentalists, the US Interior Department gave energy company ConocoPhillips the green light to explore for oil at three sites in the NPRA in March. According to observers, the new ban may also aim to defuse widespread criticism of the Willow project.
Drilling is not completely prohibited
The administration’s new plan also restricts drilling in additional large areas of Alaska without banning it completely, and prohibits drilling on 2.8 million hectares in the Beaufort Sea. The state’s two Republican senators criticized the White House’s decision, saying Biden would undermine American energy security.
The US Interior Department said it also terminated seven oil and gas leases east of the NPRA that were approved under former President Donald Trump.
US President Biden pledged during the 2020 presidential campaign not to allow any new oil and gas developments on federally owned land during his second term in office. However, Alaska lawmakers and other supporters of the Willow Project have been pushing for government approval. Its justification said that the project, worth one billion euros, would create thousands of jobs and contribute to the energy independence of the United States.
“Tv expert. Hardcore creator. Extreme music fan. Lifelong twitter geek. Certified travel enthusiast. Baconaholic. Pop culture nerd. Reader. Freelance student.”