Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Monday announced plans for an oil and gas leasing program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Bernhardt said future leases of the federally-owned land will make the entire 1.5 million acre Coastal Plain area available. “It requires an oil and gas development program that delivers energy to the nation and revenue to the Treasury,” he said. “The law makes oil and gas development one of the purposes of the refuge, clearly directing me, acting through the Bureau of Land Management, to carry out a competitive exploration and development program for the potentially energy rich coastal plain.”
President Trump has long cast an increase in Arctic drilling as integral to his push to expand domestic fossil fuel production on federal lands and secure America’s “energy dominance.” Environmental activists have warned that drilling the Arctic could harm the environment and exacerbate the climate crisis. Joe Biden, who is set to accept the Democratic presidential nomination this week, has called for a ban on new oil and gas permits on public lands. Gina McCarthy. current president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the decision an “egregious intrusion into the sacred lands of the Gwich’in and other Indigenous People” and a threat to US wildlife. Environmentalists and some Alaska Native groups, are expected to file lawsuits to try to block lease sales.