The Biden administration suspended Trump-era Arctic drilling regulations to protect the Alaskan tundra, angering conservatives
- Last year, Trump began selling oil drilling rights to part of a vast, protected Alaskan wilderness.
- The Biden administration suspended those leases Tuesday so it can asses the legality and impact.
- Some 11 billion barrels of oil are thought to lie below the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In late 2020, Trump allowed drilling to commence in a 1.5 million-acre coastal section of the 19 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area believed to contain around 11 billion barrels of oil, The New York Times reported.
The area, known as America's last wilderness, has been subject to attempts to harvest its natural resources for decades.
But on Tuesday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland paused the leases so that the Department of the Interior could assess the environmental impact of drilling, and clarify the legality of the leases, the department said in a statement.
The Trump administration may have failed to consider the "reasonable range of alternatives" required under the National Environmental Policy Act, the department said.
The suspension has been met with anger from conservatives.
Mike Dunleavy, the governor of Alaska, said the move was an "assault on Alaska's economy" and
Since launching his 2020 election campaign, Biden has pledged to point the US toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
On January 20, Biden signed an executive order prohibiting new leases from being dispensed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
However, environmentalists slammed the Justice Department this month for backing Trump's decision to start selling leases, after it said in a May 26 filing that it found the project to be "reasonable and consistent," The Guardian reported.
At the time, Kristen Monsell, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the newspaper it was "incredibly disappointing to see the Biden administration defending this environmentally disastrous project."
As well as contributing to rising fossil fuel emissions, environmentalists say that drilling will also impact the lives of the thousands of animals that live there, such as polar bears, caribou, snowy owls, The Associated Press reported.
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