White House Watch

Biden Admin Announces Massive Restrictions On Alaskan Oil Reserve And Hampers Key Mining Project In One Fell Swoop

The Biden administration moved to block oil and gas activity on millions of acres of Alaskan land and effectively rejected a road project needed to mine large reserves of copper in the state on Friday, Bloomberg News reported.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) finalized a plan that will restrict future oil leasing and development on about half of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), an area in the state’s north approximately the size of Indiana first designated by former President Warren Harding as an emergency source of fuel for the U.S. Navy, according to Bloomberg News. The DOI also moved to all but shoot down the Ambler Access Project, a previously-approved proposal for a mining company to build a 211-mile long road needed to mine copper reserves potentially worth billions of dollars.

“I am proud that my Administration is taking action to conserve more than 13 million acres in the Western Arctic and to honor the culture, history, and enduring wisdom of Alaska Natives who have lived on and stewarded these lands since time immemorial,” President Joe Biden said in a Friday statement. “My administration will continue to take ambitious action to meet the urgency of the climate crisis, protect America’s lands and waters, and fulfill our responsibility to the next generation of Americans.”

Joe Biden: “There is no more drilling.” pic.twitter.com/Cf5j4hcvZ2

— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) November 7, 2022

The DOI’s plan will designate approximately 13 million of the NPR-A’s 23 million acres as “special areas” where future oil development will be limited, and leasing will be blocked altogether on nearly 11 million acres, according to Bloomberg News. The measure will apply to existing leases in the covered areas, but it will not affect contract terms or already-approved operations under those contracts like ConocoPhillips’ massive Willow Project.

Meanwhile, the DOI also formally recommended against building the Ambler Access Project on the grounds that it would “significantly and irrevocably impact resources, including those supporting important subsistence uses, in ways that cannot be adequately mitigated,” according to Bloomberg News. The Trump administration initially improved the roadway, which would be essential for Ambler Metals to mine copper deposits potentially worth more than $7.5 billion, but the Biden administration effectively scrapped their predecessors’ analysis and initiated a fresh review process upon coming into office, according to The New York Times.

The Ambler Access Project decision may undermine the president’s green energy agenda, as the copper reserves in question could be used in products like wind turbines, transmission lines and photovoltaic cells. China generally dominates the global supply chain and refining capacity for many of the essential raw materials needed to construct green technologies that the Biden administration is aggressively promoting.

““We are deeply disappointed by the Bureau of Land Management’s politically-motivated decision to block construction of the Ambler Access Project,” Kaleb Froehlich, managing director of Ambler Metals, said in a statement shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation. “In doing so, the Department of the Interior is depriving Alaska Native communities of thousands of good-paying jobs and millions of dollars of badly needed tax revenues and economic investment, as well as preventing the United States from developing a domestic supply of minerals that are critical for clean energy technology and national security … We remain committed to this important project and will continue to push forward using all possible avenues.”

Between these policy decisions in Alaska and January’s pause on new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export hubs, Biden appears to be pushing to solidify his climate credentials as the 2024 election approaches. While Biden’s climate agenda does not seem to be resonating with most voters in crucial battleground states, it is garnering the approval of well-funded environmentalist organizations, which are poised to be key supporters of his 2024 campaign.

While environmentalist organizations are applauding the moves, oil interests have derided the NPR-A decision as a needless attack against U.S. energy security.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), a leading oil and gas industry trade association, described the NPR-A restrictions as “misguided”

“At a time when the world is looking for American energy leadership, this is yet another step in the wrong direction,” Dustin Meyer, API’s senior vice president of policy, said of the decision.

The White House and DOI did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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Nick Pope

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