The Alaska state agency that bought oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Thursday sued the Biden administration for what it claimed were illegal measures to impede drilling in the environmentally sensitive area.
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, nearly the only bidder in the controversial lease sale held in the last days of the Trump administration, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. Defendants are President Joe Biden, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and other top administration officials.
AIDEA, which now holds seven leases resulting from the sale, contends in the lawsuit that Biden and Haaland violated federal laws by imposing a moratorium on ANWR oil exploration work. The Inauguration Day executive order issued by Biden that froze activity and a June 1 secretarial order by Haaland that suspended the leases and resulted in the launch of a supplemental environmental impact statement violated the 2017 tax law passed by Congress that opened ANWR to leasing as well as the Administrative Procedures Act, the lawsuit contends.
In a statement, AIDEA officials attacked Biden and his administration.
“Alaska has been promised the legal right to responsibly determine development of its natural resources,” AIDEA Executive Director Alan Weitzner said in that statement. “Alaska is at stake—our resource-based economy, good-paying jobs for Alaskan families, local and state tax revenue for public services, and sustained throughput into the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. AIDEA, Alaska, and Alaskans are due the full potential benefit of those leases and we will fight the federal government in court to keep its promises.”
AIDEA offered more than $12 million in bids and ultimately secured seven leases in an effort that its leaders openly described as a backstop effort in case no major oil companies participated in the Jan. 6 lease sale. It turned out that no big oil companies submitted bids. The only other bidders – each of which was transferred a single ANWR tract – were a subsidiary of a small Australian energy company and a recently established Anchorage-based investment company. In all, nine tracts were transferred after the lease sale.