Delegation, Alaska Leaders: Biden Administration puts American energy security at risk, harms the state and Alaska Native Communities

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan (both R-Alaska), Representative Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), and North Slope and other Alaska leaders today expressed their opposition to two Alaska new anti-development decisions announced by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). DOI is proposing to withdraw millions of acres within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) and canceling the lawfully awarded leases to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) within the non-wilderness Coastal Plain (1002 Area) that were issued in early 2021 as required by law. Both moves are in direct contravention to Alaska-specific laws, lack scientific backing or consultation with Alaska Native stakeholders, tribes and communities, and come at the worst possible time, geopolitically.

“The NPR-A, which is explicitly designated for energy production, turns 100 this year, and we have worked for decades how to responsibly develop a very small portion of the non-wilderness 1002 Area. Now the Biden Administration, at a time when America and our allies need Alaska’s resources more than ever, has decided to go their own way by further locking Alaska down while refusing to consult with the Alaska Natives who actually live on the North Slope. It’s bad enough to tear up legal contracts and renege on federal commitments. But it’s even more unconscionable that the Biden administration is penalizing Alaska right as it allows Iran to produce more of its oil and solicits the same from Venezuela. It’s not hard to predict what will happen as they allow the world’s worst actors to enrich themselves, while punishing Alaska. Fewer jobs at home, more imports for California, and higher prices for everyone. These decisions are illegal, reckless, defy all common sense, and are the latest signs of a incoherent energy policy from President Biden,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski.

“Having just spent more than a month home in communities across our state, there is palpable anger and frustration among Alaskans about the Biden administration’s unrelenting assault on our economy and our ability to lawfully access our lands. This war on Alaska is devastating for not only Alaska but also the energy security of the nation. This unlawful cancellation of AIDEA’s ANWR leases today now brings us to 55 executive orders and actions specifically targeting Alaska since President Biden assumed office. The Biden Interior Department’s incredulous announcement of a second ANWR lease sale begs the question: What investor in their right mind would ever consider spending millions of dollars in ANWR having just witnessed the administration pull the rug out from under the last standing lessee from the previous sale? Unfortunately, that seems to be the point. The administration is putting on a legal charade by pretending to follow the law that requires them to hold lease sales with no intent of ever actually honoring those leases-- daring any investor to waste their time and money. Not only is this an affront to the rule of law, it’s also a grave injustice to the Inupiat people of the North Slope, especially the people of Kaktovik—the only village in ANWR. As evidenced by this and so many of the administration’s actions negatively impacting the Alaska Native people, the idea of ‘equity’ is being exploited as a hollow political soundbite,” said Senator Dan Sullivan.

"I am deeply frustrated by the reversal of these leases in ANWR. This administration showed that it is capable of listening to Alaskans with the approval of the Willow Project, and it is some of those same Inupiat North Slope communities who are the ones that are most impacted by this decision. I will continue to advocate for them and for Alaska's ability to explore and develop our natural resources, from the critical minerals we need for our clean energy transition to the domestic oil and gas we need to get us there. We can only get to that transition by listening to the people on the ground. Finally, we can't keep erasing our progress with every administration. I will continue to advocate for permitting reform that includes predictable timelines from the federal government, which must be a reliable partner in leasing and developing our resources,” said Representative Mary Peltola.

“This latest action by the Department of the Interior shows arbitrary disregard for Federal law, based on campaign trail rhetoric. Campaign promises are not enough to justify this agency action. Under the law, Interior must present real facts and reasons that support this reversal in position. Interior’s action leaves AIDEA one choice, we have to go to court to protect our rights in the ANWR leases. This time, we will ask the court to allow us to conduct discovery that could include taking the deposition of Biden’s messenger, Secretary Haaland and possibly other administration officials involved so the real motives are made public,” said Randy Ruaro, Executive Director of AIDEA.

“Where is the justice and local consultation for Alaska Natives and all of our residents when the Depart of Interior and extreme environmental groups conspire to manipulate the current system and bypass even federal law that leads to costly litigation, profits for NGO’s, and our local economy further damaged? Simply put, these discriminatory and bias outcomes are unacceptable and should not be tolerated by federal regulatory agencies, such as BLM, that oversee these politically motivated decisions which now even ignore years of documented science, public meetings, and local governments our locals that rely on subsistence foods to live a healthy life.  Secretary Haaland, we can’t go to a Whole Foods store in Arlington or DC to meet our basic needs,” said North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower.

“Our regional leadership has tirelessly offered to work in partnership with the administration on issues affecting our region. The decisions issued today exclude the voices of the North Slope Iñupiat, causing irreparable harm to our culture and economic self-determination,” said ASRC President and CEO Rex Rock, Sr.

“Today’s decision once again shows that the Biden administration prioritizes their agenda over the will of local Indigenous communities. By dismissing the needs and interests of the people who call this region home, they continue to impede the self-determination of the Iñupiat of the North Slope. These actions contradict local, Indigenous-led resolutions despite the administration’s ‘pledge’ to listen and work with Indigenous communities,” said Nagruk Harcharek, President, Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat.

“The administration has continually violated its mandate to consult and work with ICAS, the region’s federally recognized Tribe. This action directly impacts the livelihoods and economic future of our tribal members. Our voices, our heritage and our connection to this land cannot be silenced or overlooked,” said Morrie Lemen, Executive Director of the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope.

 “How can the Secretary of Interior make a decision that has such an economic impact on our community of Kaktovik without any formal Tribal Consultation through our sovereign relationship with the federal government?  AND to do this under the name of climate change without engaging us as a Tribe is completely discriminatory. Native Village of Kaktovik has engaged on this issue at every level – we were involved in the Coastal Plain EIS and stand by the Record of Decision – you are ignoring us as a tribe. For an Administration that is focused on Indigenous Knowledge we wonder when you have talked to us about climate change in our region.  We are losing confidence in President Biden’s actions and promises to Tribal Consultation and Strengthen Nation-to-Nation Relationships and Advancing Racial Equity and Supporting Underserved Communities!  This all sounds good unless you are a tribal government that has a different stance than this Administration on what types of activities should happen in our homelands.  We are in the midst of subsistence – the timing of this announcement couldn’t be more tone deaf to the Kaktovikmiut – because our community is focused on providing our native food to sustain us through the upcoming winter.  We demand Government-to-Government consultation on how this decision was reached – we will not be muted!” said Nathan Gordon Jr., Vice President, Native Village of Kaktovik.

“It’s difficult to express our utter shock and disappointment of Secretary Haaland’s decision today. We live in the Arctic! We are the Arctic! And for you to tell us about our region in the name of climate change is outrageous!  For an Administration that touts its focus on working with Indigenous People from our perspective it is doing the opposite.  We are a subsistence culture and are working hard to collect enough food to feed our community through whaling. We don’t have the time or energy to address this action. I can only say that as the only community within the Coastal Plain who has been fighting for the rights promised to us by Congress over 40 years ago, under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act we are astounded that Secretary Haaland has defied Congress through her actions. We are a small community that suffers as the federal winds blow and feel the Biden Administration is working to effectively erase us from the land that we have inhabited for hundreds of years,” said Charles Lampe, President, Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation.

“We are being blindsided by this action!  Our community fought hard to get the Coastal Plain opened to oil and gas leasing. We are an economically underserved community and are continually looking for economic opportunities for our long-term sustainability.  Forty years ago we found ourselves located in a National Wildlife Refuge against our will.  Life has been difficult for us under the Refuge management, there are too many rules and regulations for a small community like ours to adjust to.  One of the opportunities we always looked towards was the future potential of oil and gas leasing in the Coastal Plain.  The Secretary’s actions today basically goes against Congress and again takes rights away from us to manage our own lands to provide for our future.  We are appalled by this action and its timing – we are harvesting our native foods and that’s our primary focus right now. What does President Biden plan to do for our community if you take away our economic opportunities,” said Annie Tikluk, Mayor, City of Kaktovik.

“The government should respect sovereign rights of the local people. Our people need jobs to earn wages in order to lead a subsistence lifestyle,” said Matthew Rexford, Tribal Administrator for the Village of Kaktovik.