Beijing Biden, The Job Slayer

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pipeline keystone Biden executive order

President Joe Biden put a hold on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic just hours after being inaugurated. He signed an executive order Wednesday placing a temporary moratorium on all federal activities related to oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Just the day before, nine leases had been signed by the Trump administration, well ahead of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s 2024 deadline requiring two lease sales in the refuge.

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Biden’s executive order raises questions about the permitting process for the leases, saying, “in light of the alleged legal deficiencies underlying the program, including the inadequacy of the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act.”

The order directs the Interior secretary “as appropriate, conduct a new, comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas program.” It notifies courts that the incoming attorney general may ask courts to put a hold on litigation related to oil and gas leasing in the refuge.

Biden also reinstated an Obama-era order withdrawing areas in Arctic waters and the Bering Sea from offshore oil and gas drilling and establishing the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge encompasses calving grounds for the Porcupine Caribou Herd, which includes some 200,000 animals. Pregnant females annually trek to the coastal plain of the refuge to give birth to as many as 40,000 calves.

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The Gwich’in Athabascan people call the caribou calving grounds “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit,” meaning the sacred place where life begins.

The Gwich’in Steering Committee represents Canadian and Alaskan Gwich’in. Committee Executive Director Bernadette Demientieff said, “Mashi’ Choo, President Biden, the Gwich’in Nation is grateful to the President for his commitment to protecting sacred lands and the Gwich’in’s way of life.”

Kaktovik, the only village within the refuge, and the other villages on the North Slope of Alaska, are predominantly Inupiat.

North Slope oil and gas development has been a boon for them and other local residents. North Slope Borough property tax revenues subsidize government services that would otherwise be beyond the reach of village economies. Borough services include search and rescue, water and sanitation, housing, wildlife management and Inupiat history, language and culture.

A handful of for-profit Native corporations, Inupiat and Athabascan, have voiced support for drilling in the refuge, saying it will provide much needed jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on oil imports.

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