April 19, 2024

Interior Department Finalizes Rule to Limit Oil and Gas, Mineral Development in Alaska

Holland & Knight Alert
Jim Noe

The U.S. Department of the Interior (Interior) released a final rule that will protect millions of acres of Alaskan wildness from the development of oil, gas and minerals. Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages activity on federal lands, announced the rule on April 19, 2024. The final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register the final week of April and will become effective 30 days from publication.

The new rule is aimed at significantly reducing oil, gas and mineral development in the Special Areas in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, the nation's largest stretch of public land, in order "to provide maximum protection for surface values within the Special Areas for proposed oil and gas activities" and "to adopt measures to mitigate the reasonably foreseeable and significantly adverse effects on surface resources, taking particular care with surface resources that support subsistence" activities. The rule attracted more than 100,000 public comments and energized environmental and tribal groups, as well as oil, gas and mining interests. The move represents one of the Biden Administration's most sweeping effort to remove public lands from oil, gas and mineral development. The new rule will not affect the Biden Administration's controversial approval of the Willow oil and gas project on the North Slope of Alaska that is estimated to produce up to 600 million barrels of oil over the next 30 years.1

In a separate action, Interior on April 19, 2024, announced that it will block the construction of the 211-mile Ambler Road that was proposed to unlock access to significant copper and zinc deposits in Northern Alaska.2 In directing the "no action" alternative to the proposed industrial road, the Biden Administration reasoned that the proposed road through the northern wilderness would threaten indigenous communities and the sensitive ecosystem of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

In making the two announcements, Interior stated that "[t]hese steps follow President Biden's actions to protect millions of acres of lands and waters in the Arctic, including withdrawing approximately 2.8 million acres of the Beaufort Sea, ensuring the entire United States Arctic Ocean is off limits to new oil and gas leasing."3 Though the announcements will likely please some Alaska Native and environmental groups, the dual moves will likely draw opposition from other Alaska Native groups, the Alaska congressional delegation, and the oil, gas and mineral industries.


1 See "Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, Record of Decision" (March 2023).

2 The two actions were announced in a press release on April 19, 2024.

3 Id.

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