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Environmental group not yet claiming victory after President Biden’s ANWR executive order

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 10:46 AM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The Biden administration’s first weeks are sending shockwaves throughout the oil and gas industry. On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an order halting oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). But the future of the Coastal Plain in ANWR is murky.

Drilling in ANWR has been a contentious topic for years for environmentalists and pro-growth Alaskans.

“We will have finally won when the Arctic Refuge is permanently protected from oil and gas development,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, director of the Alaska Program for Defenders of Wildlife.

Whittington-Evans says the indigenous Gwich’in tribe relies on caribou that roam the area as a food source. But a provision in the 2017 federal tax bill made oil and gas exploration in ANWR law of the land. Whitington-Evans is not sure if the Biden administration can override the law with leases already in effect.

“To fulfill his campaign promise, there will need to be something done about these leases,” said Whittington-Evans.

The move comes as the new president proceeds with his climate crusade, a hallmark of his winning campaign.

“It’s not time for small measures. We need to be bold,” said President Biden.

Alaska’s delegation on Capitol Hill is unified against the president’s moves. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) says she will work to make sure the president upholds the law.

“I will continue to defend what we put in place,” said Murkowski.

Murkowski says at a time when the Alaska economy is hurting, the president’s executive action brings another blow to the Last Frontier. She argues drilling in her state has been done and can continue to be done in an environmentally sound manner. She expects the activity to move ahead and for the jobs to remain.

“We have proven time and time again as a state that our environmental track record is good, is sound. We stand behind the industry,” said Murkowski.

The ANWR moratorium lasts for 60 days. It is unclear if and how the Biden administration will attempt to make the ban permanent.

Copyright 2021 Gray DC. All rights reserved.

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