In Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Biden administration halted the oil and gas leases, indicating the need for a thorough probe.
Just two weeks before President Biden's inauguration, the Trump administration auctioned off the right to drill in the refuge's coastal plain. The coastal plain is also home to hundreds of thousands of migratory caribou and waterfowl such as geese, ducks, and swans, as well as the southern Beaufort Sea's endangered polar bears.
The press release by the U.S. Department of Interior states that on the first day of his office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13990, instructing the Interior Department to explore oil and gas activity in the Arctic Refuge. ''The Secretary shall review the program and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, conduct a new, comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas program,'' the White House press release stated on January 20.
The Department discovered flaws in the Record of Decision supporting the leases after conducting the required review, including a lack of assessment of a fair range of alternatives in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Secretary Deb Haaland of the Interior Department said in an order that a review of the leasing program in the wildlife refuge found "multiple legal deficiencies," including inadequate preliminary environmental study required by ecological laws and failure to consider alternate options. Haaland asked for a temporary ban on all activity linked to those leases to carry "a new, comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas program."
This move comes just days after the Justice Department defended another drilling project on Alaska's North Slope. Biden has put a hold to new federal oil and gas leases and pledged to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions significantly. He has taken a ''cautious approach'' to most of the oil and gas activities that his predecessor allowed, reports the Washington Post.