The Biden Administration unilaterally suspended all oil and gas leases in Alaska on Tuesday, in direct defiance of a law that was passed by Congress in 2017, ABC News reports.
The decision blocks a policy that was enacted by the signing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which allowed for private companies to obtain leases to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a remote portion of Alaska that features massive unused oil reserves across 19.6 million acres.
Deb Haaland, the Secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI), gave the order after the Biden Administration had already ordered a suspension of all drilling in the area on his first day in office, so that the policy could be “reviewed” by his new Interior Department. Haaland declared, without evidence, that the DOI review “identified defects in the underlying record of decision supporting the leases.”
The Bureau of Land Management had already issued leases for drilling in ANWR as recently as January 14th, just six days before Joe Biden took over. The leases included nine tracts encompassing 685 square miles. But those leases, and all others, have now been put on indefinite hold by the DOI’s latest announcement.
Opening up ANWR for drilling was calculated to have generated over $1 billion in revenue over the first 10 years, and would also have contributed greatly to American energy independence. The Trump presidency saw the United States become energy independent by the end of his first term, eliminating dependence on foreign resources; however, Biden has been actively reversing many of those same policies and increasing dependence on oil and gas from overseas, which led to an energy crisis in the Southeastern United States last month. During the crisis, there was a gas shortage that shut down over 1,000 gas stations in the region and caused gasoline prices across the nation to skyrocket.