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President Biden Aims to Suspend Trump Arctic Oil Drilling

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden announced that he will be suspending oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. By doing so, he will reverse former President Donald Trump’s drilling program in the refuge.

The Alaskan wilderness is home to important species, such as polar bears and wolves. Republicans are opposed to the Biden administration’s move even though Arctic tribal leaders are welcoming it.

The region is rich in oil. Due to this, there were opposing arguments on the effects that drilling for this oil could have. On one hand, some argue that it could bring great amounts of money and provide jobs for locals in Alaska. However, others have raised their concerns regarding negative environmental and climate effects.

In January, Trump moved ahead with the first sale of oil leases in the region. This was part of his goal to increase fossil fuel production. The oil and gas industry showed little interest to this, as they were focusing their spending on renewable energy instead. Moreover, many large US banks were not willing to fund exploration in the area. The government auctioned off 11 tracts covering over 550,000 acres. The sale raised less than $15 million, which was far less than they had anticipated.

During President Biden’s campaign, he pledged to protect the habitat. On Tuesday, the Interior Department said it had “identified defects in the underlying record of decision supporting the leases, including the lack of analysis of a reasonable range of alternatives”, required under environmental law.

“Mr Biden believes America’s national treasures are cultural and economic cornerstones of our country”, said Gina McCarthy, the White House National Climate Advisor. “He is grateful for the prompt action by the Department of the Interior to suspend all leasing pending a review of decisions made in the last administration’s final days that could have changed the character of this special place forever,” she added.

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