The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has closed nearly half of Alaska's Natural Petroleum Reserve (NPR), reversing a Trump administration decision.
The 91-page report is consistent with one introduced in 2013, according to a BLM news release.
The Biden administration announced in January it was reviewing a 2020 report which left 18.5 million of the 22.8 million acre site open for drilling.
The new plan leaves 11.8 million acres, or 52%, of the site available for drilling, according to the report.
"The remaining approximately 11 million acres (48%) of the NPR-A are closed to oil and gas leasing under this plan in order to protect and conserve important surface resources and uses in these areas," BLM said in the report. "Areas closed to oil and gas leasing include areas critical to sensitive bird populations and the Teshekpuk Lake and Western Arctic Caribou Herds, as well as some of the Beaufort Sea waters in and near Dease Inlet and Utqiagvik."
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said the decision will not help Americans.
"This decision will prolong the pain for hard-working Americans and tighten Vladimir Putin’s grip over our allies," Sullivan said in a joint statement with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. "Needless to say, President Biden is not doing everything in his power to control prices at the pump or relieve average Americans’ pain. We now know, record inflation, unprecedented gas prices, and a despot wielding vast sums of the world’s petroleum supply will not deter Joe Biden in his relentless war on American energy production.”
It's the wrong decision, Murkowski said.
"We need more domestic resource development, and areas explicitly designated for that purpose should be at the top of the list, not on the chopping block," Murkowski said in a statement. “This decision also flies in the face of many of the Alaska Natives who live on the North Slope, who participated in the 2020 plan update and who supported its finalization. The administration is choosing to ignore them, while giving outside environmental groups everything they want.”
Kristen Miller, conservation director for the Alaska Wilderness League praised the decision.
"The Western Arctic is the next major front in the fight to address the climate crisis on our nation’s public lands," Miller said in a statement. "The Biden administration should move quickly to put in place durable regulations and protections for the Reserve that recognize the realities of the climate crisis and that are not reliant on which party controls the White House."