Delegation Condemns “No Action” Decision on Ambler Road

Anchorage, AK—U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, and U.S. Representative Mary Sattler Peltola, D-Alaska, today issued the following statements condemning the U.S. Department of the Interior (Interior) for selecting the “no action” alternative in its Record of Decision (ROD) for the Ambler Access Project (Ambler). The ROD rejects Ambler, a private haul road that would provide economic benefits in Alaska and facilitate domestic supplies of key minerals, after the project was previously fully approved in 2020. 

“Nine years in federal permitting. Access to critical and strategic minerals that are essential for everything from clean energy to national security. A rare opportunity for development in rural Alaska under the highest standards, so we don’t have to import from unstable nations that have no protections for people or the environment,” Murkowski said. “Somehow, none of that mattered to the Biden administration on the Ambler project. They have ignored federal law, our national vulnerabilities, and Alaska’s strong record of responsible development, all in the name of election year politics.” 

“There he goes again: President Biden’s announcement on the Ambler Road is lawless, hurts Alaska’s future and jobs for our state, undermines America’s national security, and only makes our country more dependent on adversaries like Communist China for critical minerals,” Sullivan said.“These minerals are critically important for our national defense, economy, and renewable energy sector. ANILCA mandates the right-of-way for this road. Career professional staff from the Obama and Trump administrations studied and then approved it after several years. Consultations with Alaskan stakeholder groups were extensive and far-reaching. But no matter, Lower 48 eco-colonialists told Joe Biden to kill the road, and he obeyed. Sanctioning Alaska more than terrorist states, like Iran and Venezuela, and adversaries, like China, is now commonplace policy for the Biden administration. But I’m fighting back. I was able to get strong bipartisan support for my amendment in this year’s NDAA that mandates this road and ensures the destiny of this project is controlled by Alaskans.”

“All too often, promises made to Alaska Natives by Congress haven’t been kept; this decision is in contradiction to ANILCA,” Peltola said. “There’s a path forward where local buy-in for this project is real and sustainable. As we continue to work through NDAA, we will seek to affirm permanent private road access that will make these resources available in a way that works for stakeholders in the area.”

The Ambler Access Project would provide surface transportation access to the world-class Ambler Mining District and enable the development of minerals such as copper, cobalt, gallium, and germanium.

Access to the Ambler District is guaranteed by federal law. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980—which then-Senator Biden voted for—provides for a right-of-way (ROW) across federal lands to ensure access to the Ambler District. ANILCA plainly states that the Secretary “shall permit” access from “from the Ambler Mining District to the Alaska Pipeline Haul Road.” This provision was included in ANILCA to ensure balance between conservation—the creation of the surrounding 8.4-million-acre Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve—and responsible resource development to benefit Alaska.  

Federal permitting for Ambler began in 2015 and included a rigorous environmental review and Environmental and Economic Analysis (EEA). After holding 18 public meetings and considering over 3,000 unique public comments, in July 2020, the Secretaries of the Interior and Transportation signed a ROD selecting the Northern Alignment as the approved route for Ambler. That same month, after holding 21 public meetings and reviewing over 21,000 public comments, BLM and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) signed a joint ROD choosing Alternative A as the preferred alternative; subsequently BLM and the National Park Service issued 50-year ROW permits for Ambler.

In February 2022, DOI sought a voluntary court remand to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Ambler. With no sense of irony, President Biden held a roundtable on “Securing Critical Minerals for a Future Made in America” on the very same day—failing to recognize the Ambler District is one of the nation’s best options to produce them, but foreshadowing his administration’s refusal to facilitate domestic mining, regardless of the nation’s harmful import dependence and the demand being driven by its own policies.

Earlier this month, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis on an amendment authored by Senator Sullivan to require DOI to select Alternative A or Alternative B from its SEIS as the preferred alternative for Ambler. Both alternatives would ensure that an economically viable project can proceed. The legislation containing that provision, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2025, is expected to be taken up on the Senate floor later this year. 

The minerals and metals within the Ambler District are crucial to economic and national security:

  • The United States’ imports of copper, the “metal of electrification,” have risen sharply in recent years. Numerous forecasts indicate there will be a substantial supply gap for copper in the years ahead. The Biden administration has stalled or rejected numerous copper projects across the nation, adding to future supply woes.
  • The predominant global supplier of cobalt is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which the Biden administration has signed a memorandum of understanding with, despite horrific working conditions for miners (including children), its lack of environmental standards, and Chinese ownership or control of many mines.
  • Last year, China abruptly cut off its exports of gallium and germanium, threatening to harm the domestic industries that depend on imports of them. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. imports 100 percent of its supply of gallium and greater than 50 percent of its supply of germanium (the exact percentage is not publicly available).

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