The Biden administration is facing heavy criticism from Native Alaskans over its crackdown on oil and gas drilling in Alaska, activity which generates tax revenue vital for key state and local programs.
Native Alaskan leaders have particularly taken issue with the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) recent actions blocking future oil and gas development in the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR), an area in North Slope Borough, Alaska, specifically set aside by Congress for resource development, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and in federal offshore waters off the state’s coast.
“My community unapologetically supports the leasing program,” Charles Lampe, the president of the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation, told lawmakers in testimony this week. “Many people try to steer the debate to caribou. For Kaktovik, it’s about our people and having an economy to survive.”
“Congress needs to fulfill its promises made to us over 40 years ago,” Lampe added. “We will not succumb to eco-colonialism and become conservation refugees on our own land. The people have every right to pursue economic, social and cultural self-determination. The laws of the U.S. should support indigenous populations, not interfere with these basic human and political rights.”
In addition to Lampe, Nagruk Harcharek, the president of Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat; Josiah Patkotak, the Iñupiaq mayor of the North Slope Borough; Morrie Lemen, the executive director of the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope; and Nathan Gordon Jr., the vice president of the Native Village of Kaktovik, among others have similarly condemned federal restrictions on resource development near their communities.
According to the leaders, who collectively represent the region most impacted by the Biden administration’s recent slate of actions targeting oil and gas drilling in Alaska, Secretary Deb Haaland and other Biden administration officials have repeatedly rebuked their attempts to arrange meetings and voice their concerns.
Haaland — the first Native American cabinet member in U.S. history and who has pledged to prioritize Indigenous perspectives throughout her tenure, but who has also pursued an aggressive climate agenda — has yet to hold a single consultation with North Slope communities about either the NPR or ANWR actions. There have been zero public meetings held regarding ANWR and just two such meetings held about NPR.
“The North Slope Iñupiat deserve to be more than an afterthought by the federal government,” Harcharek said earlier in November. “It’s time for Secretary Haaland and the Biden administration to live up to their promises of engagement by meeting with our elected leadership and including us at the policy table starting now.”
“Roughly 95% of our region’s tax base comes from taxation on the development of land on the North Slope,” added Patkotak. “Without these funds and a strong regional economy in the long term, our communities and culture are at risk. Going forward, it is vital that the administration include us at the policymaking table and share information when developing policies affecting our people and lands.”
Harcharek, Patkotak, Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope Director of Natural Resources Doreen Leavitt, and Anaktuvuk Pass Mayor Lilian Stone participated in an event last month hosted by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, calling for the Biden administration to “hear our voices” and allow resource development in Alaska.
In September, the DOI proposed regulations to “ensure maximum protection” for 13 million acres of land across the NPR and further ordered an additional 2.8 million of acres to be withdrawn from oil and gas leasing in the Beaufort Sea off the northern coast of Alaska. The agency separately ruled out any offshore oil and gas lease sales in Alaska through 2028.
Additionally, Interior Secretary Haaland authorized the cancelation of seven leases issued in 2021 to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state agency. Those leases were purchased in January 2021 and span 365,775 acres across non-wilderness areas of ANWR.
“Earlier this month, I hosted leaders of the Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, the North Slope Borough, and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation here in D.C. to elevate their voices and bring attention to their communities’ strong opposition to the Biden administration’s illegal cancelation of lawfully-issued leases in ANWR, and the NPR-A rule that will lock up their lands,” Sullivan told Fox News Digital on Thursday.
“There is palpable anger and frustration among Alaskans about the Biden administration’s unrelenting assault on our economy and our ability to lawfully access our lands,” the Alaska senator added. “This is a grave injustice to the people who actually live on the North Slope.”
“They have been disregarded entirely during this process and denied consultation as the Biden administration locks up their lands,” he said. “Alaska has a right to produce our own energy for the sake of quality economic opportunities and good-paying jobs, and for the energy security of the entire nation.”
The other members of Alaska’s congressional delegation, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowksi and Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola, in addition to state leaders, have also criticized the Biden administration for its actions.
The DOI didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.