Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin torched President Joe Biden and his administration Thursday for their aggressive moves to curtail oil activity in Alaska.
The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced Wednesday that seven remaining leases awarded from a 2021 sale of land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s (ANWR) Coastal Plain would be invalidated and that the agency would withdraw over 13 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPRA) from oil and gas leasing activity in order to ensure “maximum protection,” according a DOI press release. Manchin ripped the announced moves, calling the decisions an attempt to circumvent Congress that imperil American energy security in a Thursday press release.
“This is yet another example of this administration caving to the radical left with no regard for clear direction from Congress or American energy security,” Manchin said in the press release. “Let’s be clear — this is another attempt to use executive action to circumvent a law to accomplish what this administration does not have the votes to achieve in Congress.”
The NRPA is approximately 23 million acres in total, and it is meant to serve as a reserve oil supply in the event of emergency, according to the Bureau of Land Management. There have now been 55 executive orders and actions targeting Alaska specifically since Biden took office in 2021, according to Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
“Canceling valid leases, removing acreage from future sales, and attempting to reduce production in Alaska while taking steps to allow Iran and Venezuela to produce more oil — with fewer environmental regulations — makes no sense and is frankly embarrassing,” Manchin concluded.
Alaska produced the fourth-most oil of any state in the country in 2021 and 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The administration’s moves to clamp down on drilling activity in the state follow a report from the International Energy Administration that oil prices could continue to rise as OPEC+ production cuts take hold, and a separate Reuters report indicating that Americans could see their heating bills spike if the upcoming winter proves to be particularly cold.
The DOI justified its decision to cancel the leases by asserting that the prerequisite environmental reviews were legally inadequate, according to the agency’s press release.
“President Biden is delivering on the most ambitious climate and conservation agenda in history,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in the agency’s press release. “The steps we are taking today further that commitment, based on the best available science and in recognition of the Indigenous Knowledge of the original stewards of this area, to safeguard our public lands for future generations.”
Neither the White House nor the DOI responded immediately to requests for comment.
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