Juneau, Alaska (AP) — Oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Sanctuary after the US Secretary of the Interior said Tuesday that it had previously discovered “multiple legal flaws.” Announced that it is proceeding with a new environmental review of the review that provided the basis for the first lease sale in the coastal plain of the shelter earlier this year.
The Federal Land Agency said there is a public process to determine the scope of the review and identify key issues related to the leasing program. According to the agency’s notice, the information gathered during the process will affect the development of the review.
President Joe Biden issued an executive order in January to the Secretary of the Interior to temporarily suspend activities related to the leasing program, review the program, and “properly and in compliance with applicable law, oil and gas programs.”
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in June said her review identified flaws in the records that underpin the lease, including an environmental review that failed to “appropriately analyze a reasonable range of alternatives.” ..
At that point she announced plans for a new review and suspended activities related to the leasing program while the analysis was pending.
A federal land agency spokesperson, Richard Packer, did not answer questions from the Associated Press or provide additional details about the agency’s plans, but instead referred to the agency’s press release.
Conservatives welcomed the new review, but urged Congress to abolish the provisions of the law requiring rental sales.
According to the Land Agency, a law passed in 2017 requires at least two rental sales in the coastal plain, the first before December 22, 2021 and the second on December 22, 2024. It was before. The first lease sale took place in January of the Trump administration’s decline.
Alaska’s political leaders, including the current Republican parliamentary delegation, have long promoted the opening of the coastal plain to development. Drilling supporters see development as a way to increase oil production, generate income, and create or retain jobs.
Critics say the offshore Beaufort Sea provides habitat for wildlife such as caribou, polar bears and birds. And drilling should be banned. Indigenous Gwich’in considers the coastal plain to be sacred and has expressed concern about its impact on the caribou herds that it relies on for survival.
Alaska’s US Senator Dan Sullivan said in a statement that Tuesday’s announcement was a “political stall tactic” and called on Harland to “accept science” in an existing environmental review.
By launching a new review, Sullivan said, “The Byden administration is ignoring the will of Parliament, the will of Alaska Natives, and the best interests of the Alaska Natives community on the nose slope.”
Lawyers at North Slope Borough, Kaktovik’s Native Village, and Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation opposed court efforts to block rental sales in January.
The notice released on Tuesday stated that the purpose of the supplementary review planned by the Land Management Department was bound by law and remained the same as the previous review: Enforcing the provisions of the 2017 law.
According to the notice, alternatives to consider include designating specific areas as open or closed leases, limiting surface development, banning surface infrastructure in sensitive areas, and for oil and gas activities. Includes those that “avoid or mitigate” the impact.
Tim Woody, a spokesman for The Wilderness Society, emailed out that the law requires another lease sale by late 2024.
“Currently, the only way to prevent the sale of leases is for Congress to take action to amend or abolish the drilling provisions of the 2017 law,” he said.
Critics said the first lease sale rushed to label it bankruptcy after major oil companies continued to stand by. The main bidder was the state-owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
Authorities hold a seven- to ten-year lease, said Alan Weitzner, the company’s executive director.
According to Weitzner, the company received a letter from Interior Ministry officials notifying them of the suspension of these leases.
A letter dated June 1 states that the Land Management Department will conduct an additional environmental review to “decide whether to reconfirm or invalidate the lease or take additional mitigation measures.” I did.
According to Weitzner, the company asked the interior ministry the rationale for making the decision, but did not receive a response.
“From our side, we have very effective and enforceable leases, and we aim to claim our full rights under those leases,” he said.