Statement: Interior Department makes an important move to slow development of Arctic leases

Media Contacts

After announcing suspension of Trump-era leases, the Biden administration will conduct a new environmental review

Environment America

DENVER — The Department of the Interior announced Tuesday that it will begin a new environmental review of oil drilling’s impact on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The review will include examining the effects of drilling on such wildlife as caribou and polar bears, as well as on surface waters and climate change.

Under the Trump administration, nine leases were awarded in the Arctic National Refuge in January 2021. In response to the lease sale, Environment America joined the Gwich’in Steering Committee and 11 other groups in a legal effort to protect this important and iconic land. The Trump administration rushed the lease sale and no major oil companies bid on tracts. However, a public corporation of the State of Alaska, called the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA), was the highest bidder for most of the tracts leased. The Biden administration has suspended the nine leases pending the results of this environmental review.

In response, Environment America Public Lands Campaign Director Ellen Montgomery issued the following statement:

“We are pleased to see the Biden administration making progress in their review of the Trump administration leases. We are confident that the Department of the Interior will find that developing these leases would cause irreparable damage to the pristine landscape and the wildlife that make their home there. But the Biden administration can only pause drilling. Congress must act to fully end the leasing program in the Arctic Refuge. We cannot have another lease sale that opens up polar bear denning areas, caribou calving grounds and the destination of hundreds of migratory birds to the invasive and polluting activities that come with oil excavation. We urge Congress to act quickly to protect the refuge.”


Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups. Our staff work together for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the United States put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy.

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