Statement on Biden administration protections for National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska

Sep 6, 2023

DENVER—Today the Department of the Interior released a proposed rule to increase protections for designated Special Areas within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). This action fulfills a commitment made by the department in March 2023 along with its approval of the massive Willow oil and gas project in Alaska. The department also announced it was canceling all seven remaining oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which were issued under a rushed and legally deficient leasing process during the Trump administration.

The proposed rule would put 10.6 million acres of the NPR-A off-limits to future oil and gas development. The remainder of the 13-million acre Special Areas would be subject to strict safeguards, requiring BLM to show that any development would result in minimal impacts to wildlife or ecosystems. Outside of the Special Areas, any future oil and gas development in the NPR-A would have to meet higher environmental standards consistent with the Biden administration’s activity plan for the reserve, which was finalized in 2022.

The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“We are pleased to see President Biden making good on his promise to implement durable protections for the irreplaceable landscapes and habitats of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Wildlife such as caribou, grizzly and polar bears, and migratory birds all rely on these intact and undisturbed habitats which would be impossible to replace if they were disturbed and fragmented by oil and gas development.

“Protecting the largest space of undisturbed public lands in the U.S. and maintaining intact and healthy habitats for threatened wildlife must continue to be a top priority and we applaud the Biden administration’s unwavering commitment to conserving 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030.”

Since 1999, oil and gas companies have leased more than 8.5 million acres of public land in the NPR-A. Since 2014, the Interior department has offered nearly 24 million acres in the NPR-A across seven lease sales, and companies leased less than 11 percent of that. In other words, oil and gas companies have been offered nearly every acre that could potentially produce oil in the NPR-A, and they’re just not interested in growing their stockpile. This trend isn’t unique to Alaska: the most recent lease sale in Wyoming generated underwhelming interest from industry, and the most recent lease sale in Nevada received zero bids.