Canceling valid leases, removing acreage from future sales, and attempting to reduce production in Alaska while taking steps to allow Iran and Venezuela to produce more oil, with fewer environmental regulations, makes no sense and is frankly embarrassing.
That’s what Joe Manchin, a Democrat Senator for West Virginia and the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement posted on his website after the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) revealed that it canceled oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and proposed new protections in National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPRA).
“I can’t explain to the American people why we would willingly become more dependent on foreign oil imports, eliminate good paying American jobs, and drive up the cost of our electric bills and gas prices across the country,” Manchin said in the statement.
“This is yet another example of this administration caving to the radical left with no regard for clear direction from Congress or American energy security,” he added.
“Let’s be clear – this is another attempt to use executive action to circumvent a law to accomplish what this administration does not have the votes to achieve in Congress,” Manchin continued.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 mandated two lease sales of not less than 400,000 acres within the Coastal Plain of ANWR, the statement posted on Manchin’s website noted, adding that the first sale was held in January of 2021 and that a second sale is required to occur prior to December 22, 2024.
A statement posted on the office of Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy’s website noted that the Secretary of the DOI has the authority to cancel oil and gas leases issued in violation of statute or regulation but added that there is no such violation in the ANWR leases.
“The leases AIDEA hold in ANWR were legally issued in a sale mandated by Congress,” Dunleavy said in the statement.
“It’s clear that President Biden needs a refresher on the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine. Federal agencies don’t get to rewrite laws, and that is exactly what the Department of the Interior is trying to do here,” he added.
“We will fight for Alaska’s right to develop its own resources and will be turning to the courts to correct the Biden administration’s wrong,” Dunleavy continued.
In a statement posted on his website, Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan said, “there is palpable anger and frustration among Alaskans about the Biden administration’s unrelenting assault on our economy and our ability to lawfully access our lands”.
“This war on Alaska is devastating for not only Alaska but also the energy security of the nation,” he added.
“The Biden Interior Department’s incredulous announcement of a second ANWR lease sale begs the question – what investor in their right mind would ever consider spending millions of dollars in ANWR having just witnessed the administration pull the rug out from under the last standing lessee from the previous sale?,” he continued.
“Unfortunately, that seems to be the point. The administration is putting on a legal charade by pretending to follow the law that requires them to hold lease sales with no intent of ever actually honoring those leases – daring any investor to waste their time and money,” he went on to state.
Also in the statement, Alaska Representative Mary Peltola said, “I am deeply frustrated by the reversal of these leases in ANWR”.
“This administration showed that it is capable of listening to Alaskans with the approval of the Willow Project, and it is some of those same Inupiat North Slope communities who are the ones that are most impacted by this decision,” Peltola added.
“I will continue to advocate for them and for Alaska’s ability to explore and develop our natural resources, from the critical minerals we need for our clean energy transition to the domestic oil and gas we need to get us there. We can only get to that transition by listening to the people on the ground,” Peltola continued.
Rigzone has asked the DOI, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the White House for comment on the Manchin, Dunleavy, Sullivan, and Peltola statements. At the time of writing, the DOI has declined to comment, the DOE referred Rigzone to the White House, and the White House has not yet responded to Rigzone.
In a statement posted on his Twitter page on September 7, U.S. President Joe Biden said, “my administration is canceling all remaining oil and gas leases issued under the last administration in the Arctic Refuge and proposing to protect 13 million acres in the Western Arctic”.
“There’s more to do, but we’re taking action to meet the moment for future generations,” he added in the statement.
In a statement posted on its website last week, the DOI revealed that, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, had authorized the cancellation of the remaining seven oil and gas leases issued by the previous administration in the Coastal Plain. The leases were suspended in June 2021 following the issuance of Secretary’s Order (S.O.) 3401, the DOI highlighted in the statement.
The DOI also announced that it proposed new regulations for the NPRA that it said “would ensure maximum protection for the more than 13 million acres of Special Areas in the reserve, while supporting subsistence activities for Alaska Native communities”.
“The proposed rule, previewed in March 2023, adds to President Biden’s actions to protect millions of acres of lands and waters in the Arctic, including withdrawing approximately 2.8 million acres of the Beaufort Sea, ensuring the entire United States Arctic Ocean is off limits to new oil and gas leasing,” the DOI said in the statement.
“With climate change warming the Arctic more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet, we must do everything within our control to meet the highest standards of care to protect this fragile ecosystem,” Haaland said in the DOI statement.
“President Biden is delivering on the most ambitious climate and conservation agenda in history. The steps we are taking … further that commitment, based on the best available science and in recognition of the Indigenous Knowledge of the original stewards of this area, to safeguard our public lands for future generations,” Haaland added.
In its statement, the DOI highlighted that the previous administration held an oil and gas lease sale in the Arctic Refuge’s Coastal Plain on January 6, 2021, and issued 10-year leases on nine tracts covering more than 430,000 acres.
On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 13990, directing the department to review oil and gas leasing in the refuge, the DOI noted, adding that, since that time, two of the issued leases have been canceled and refunded at the request of the lessees.
The DOI highlighted in its statement that the Secretary of the Interior has the authority to cancel or suspend oil and gas leases issued in violation of a statute or regulation. A draft supplemental environmental impact statement released last week by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “developed information supporting the Department’s determination that the 2021 lease sale was seriously flawed and based on a number of fundamental legal deficiencies”, the DOI said in the statement.