The Biden administration is taking millions of acres off the table for development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The decision to lock up NPRA was made by the principal deputy assistant secretary, Laura Daniel-Davis, in the Interior’s Land and Minerals Management section. Daniel-Davis was chief of staff to Interior Secretaries Sally Jewell and Ken Salazar in the Obama administration, and during the Trump administration she went to work for the National Wildlife Federation, returning to federal service once Democrats were back in control of the Department of Interior.
Her action reverses a land use plan put in place during the Donald Trump administration. In addition, it adds massive new levels of regulation on the oil and gas industry in Alaska to protect threatened and endangered species on Alaska’s North Slope.
The NPRA is a 23,599,999-acre petroleum-rich area that surrounds the city of Utqiagvik (Barrow), and other Inupiat villages that are on its perimeter.
The plan to shut down Alaska’s resource economy came immediately after Interior Sec. Deb Haaland had left Alaska; she had spent three days in the state touring King Cove and meeting with Alaska Natives who support the Biden-Haaland agenda to keep oil in the ground.
U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan criticized the decision.
“This shortsighted decision closes millions of acres to responsible energy development, deliberately upending a careful balance in the management of the reserve and more broadly across Alaska lands,” Alaska’s delegation said in a statement. “The Biden administration’s move abandons the 2020 version of the IAP, which was developed in partnership with the North Slope Borough and in consultation with North Slope Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations. It comes mere weeks after President Biden pledged to ‘work like the devil to bring gas prices down.'”
“This was the wrong decision when it was announced in January, and it is only worse today. We need more domestic resource development, and areas explicitly designated for that purpose should be at the top of the list, not on the chopping block. It is simply shocking that the Biden administration can look at the world, and decide that Alaska is where ‘keep it in the ground’ should apply,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said. “This decision also flies in the face of many of the Alaska Natives who live on the North Slope, who participated in the 2020 plan update and who supported its finalization. The administration is choosing to ignore them, while giving outside environmental groups everything they want.””
“The Bureau of Land Management has 25 million acres of land nationwide available for oil development, 23 million of which are in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan. “I have long urged the President to cut the gimmicks and tap this true ‘strategic petroleum reserve,’ which is teeming with reserves ready to alleviate some of our nation’s dire energy needs. But yesterday, President Biden doubled down on his failed policies, removing half of this federally-established oil and gas reserve from consideration and—even more reckless—specifically removing areas with the greatest potential for actual production. This decision will prolong the pain for hard-working Americans and tighten Vladimir Putin’s grip over our allies. Needless to say, President Biden is not doing everything in his power to control prices at the pump or relieve average Americans’ pain. We now know, record inflation, unprecedented gas prices, and a despot wielding vast sums of the world’s petroleum supply will not deter Joe Biden in his relentless war on American energy production.”
BLM manages the NPR-A under the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act and other federal laws. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the 23-million-acre region on the western North Slope – roughly the size of the state of Indiana – contains 8.7 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil.