ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Sept. 8 – The Biden administration could reverse a Trump-era policy that opened up vast swathes of federal lands in the Alaskan Arctic to oil development, court documents show of the US District of Anchorage.
The US Department of the Interior is examining whether it should reverse a Trump-era management plan for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A), an Indiana-sized land unit holding both petroleum and important ecological values.
The move comes even as the White House acquiesced to a court order requiring it to resume oil and gas leases in the offshore Gulf of Mexico amid ongoing battles over its plans to reduce reliance on United States with respect to fossil fuels.
The announcement came in a progress report filed Tuesday night amid lawsuits to overturn the Trump plan, which significantly expanded drilling opportunities and reduced protections on the reserve.
The plan, made final in the last days of the Trump administration, opened more than 80% of reserves to oil development.
Areas open to oil leasing include Teshekpuk Lake, a large body of water that is globally significant habitat for migratory birds, fish and caribou.
A lawyer for one of the complainant organizations praised the Biden administration’s announcement.
“Any reasonable review will show that the Biden administration must revoke this disastrous plan and start phasing out existing fossil fuel extraction. Anything less than that simply won’t be enough,” said Kristen Monsell of the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement.
The NPR-A, located to the west of the main oil fields on the North Slope, is considered promising for new development. Previously leased areas in the northeast section of the reserve have yielded several new discoveries, including ConocoPhillips’ Willow prospect, which the company says could produce up to 160,000 barrels per day.
This project is awaiting a court-ordered rewrite of the environmental review that preceded development approvals.