The decision was reported by the Washington Post on Tuesday, and would mark an attempt to reverse one of President Donald Trump’s historic achievements: the opening of ANWR’s coastal plain in his tax cut legislation in December 2017.
The Post reported that “Interior would halt the leases on the grounds that Trump officials rushed the Jan. 6 auction and did not follow proper procedures.” But environmental groups have also lobbied to reverse Trump’s decision on ANWR.
ANWR was set aside by Congress in 1980 — though biologists in Alaska have joked that Congress confused ANWR and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) to the west, which has more wildlife and less oil and gas potential.
The fossil fuel industry has lobbied for ANWR to be opened, arguing that new technologies such as directional drilling and ice roads minimize the environmental impact and risk to wildlife. The local Iñupiat Alaska Native communities and the state government also support oil and gas activity in ANWR. But environmental groups oppose it, noting that the migratory Porcupine Caribou herd uses the coastal plain to calve. The Gwich’in Alaska Natives, who live further south but also hunt the caribou, and who would not benefit directly from oil and gas development, want ANWR to be closed.
Environmental groups also want ANWR close for the same reason they lobbied for the Keystone XL pipeline to be closed, though it is the most environmentally-friendly way to transport oil — namely, that they oppose all fossil fuel development, due to the risks of climate change.
Just last Wednesday, attorneys for the Biden administration Department of Justice defended the Willow oil project in the NPR-A, which was approved by the Trump administration last fall, fighting against a lawsuit by groups trying to stop it.
The country is currently experiencing a surge in gas prices.