Alaska: Biden to suspend Trump Arctic drilling leases

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US President Joe Biden’s administration will suspend oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge pending an environmental review.

The move reverses former President Donald Trump’s decision to sell oil leases in the refuge to expand fossil fuel and mineral development.

The giant Alaskan wilderness is home to many important species, including polar bears, caribou and wolves.

Arctic tribal leaders have welcomed the move but Republicans are opposed.

Covering some 19 million acres (78,000 sq km), the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is often described as America’s last great wilderness.

How did we get here?
The push for exploration in the park has been the subject of a decades-long dispute.

The oil-rich region is a critically important location for many species and is considered sacred by the indigenous Gwich’in people.

One side argues that drilling for oil could bring in significant amounts of money and provide jobs for people in Alaska, while the other has raised concerns over environmental and climate threats.

Days before his presidential term ended in January, Mr Trump went ahead with the first sale of oil leases in the region’s coastal plain as part of his push to develop more domestic fossil fuel production.

But the sale received little interest from the oil and gas industry. Companies said they were focusing their spending on renewable energy, amid a huge slump in oil prices. Several large US banks said they would not fund exploration in the area.

In total, 11 tracts were auctioned off, covering just over 550,000 acres, according to the Washington Post newspaper. The sale raised less than $15m (£11m) – far less than the government had hoped.

Most went to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state agency.

Agencies

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