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Manchin torches Biden for oil drilling ban

 September 8, 2023

President Joe Biden's decision to significantly restrict fossil fuel drilling in a resource-rich area of Alaska has been widely criticized by both Republicans and Democrats, as Fox News reported.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) revealed plans to extend "maximum protection" to approximately 13 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR) located in North Slope Borough, Alaska. Additionally, Biden designated an extra 2.8 million acres off Alaska's northern coast, in the Beaufort Sea, as off-limits for oil and gas leasing.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland further approved the termination of seven 2021 leases held by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA), a state entity. These leases, spanning 365,775 acres, were within the non-wilderness regions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Haaland cited the rapid warming of the Arctic due to climate change as the motive behind the move, emphasizing the need to safeguard the sensitive ecosystem.

Bipartisan Outcry Over Move

The Biden administration's decision to ban the drilling has been heavily criticized for potentially weakening U.S. energy security, giving an advantage to overseas energy producers, and contradicting prior congressional directions.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) expressed his dismay at the decision, saying, "I can't explain to the American people why we would willingly become more dependent on foreign oil imports, eliminate good paying American jobs and drive up the cost of our electric bills and gas prices across the country."

He also criticized the administration for catering to extreme left-wing views without considering Congress's directives or the nation's energy security.

Manchin described the decision to reduce local oil production while seemingly permitting countries such as Iran and Venezuela to increase theirs with less environmental regulation as nonsensical and embarrassing.

Impact on Local Communities and Energy Security

Several of the measures taken by the Biden administration aim to severely restrict future oil and gas leasing and industrial development in areas of Alaska renowned for their abundant wildlife. This would mean an outright ban on new leases across a vast 10.6 million acres.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) also pointed out the adverse implications of these measures on American energy policies and their repercussions for the nation's international relations.

Furthermore, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) described the moves as a continuation of Biden's "war on American energy," arguing that the ban disregards the law and overlooks the benefits that Native American communities would derive from regional development.

Under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Interior Department was mandated to establish an oil and gas program in ANWR. Despite this, Biden's decision appears to counteract that requirement, leading to legal pushback from entities that had previously been awarded leases.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voiced concerns over the administration's unilateral decision-making, highlighting the broader economic implications and potential benefits that Alaska's resources could bring to both the state and the nation.

A Call for Balanced Policy

Echoing similar sentiments, Sen. Dan Sullivan, also from Alaska, characterized the decisions as detrimental to the economy and questioned the logic behind restricting lawful access to land.

Meanwhile, Democratic at-large Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola vowed to continue supporting the reinstatement of the canceled leases, emphasizing the importance of Alaska's natural resources.

According to AIDEA, the ANWR section that held their leases is estimated to contain about 7.6 billion barrels of extractable oil and 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. They highlighted that a significant portion of Alaska's indigenous and rural North Slope communities' economic growth and job opportunities stem from oil and gas ventures.

Oil and gas activities in Alaska play a crucial role in funding various services essential to the state's communities, including education, housing, health care, and emergency services.