U.S. president Biden has suspended permits to drill for oil and gas in a Nature Reserve in the state of Alaska.
In doing so, he puts a preliminary stop to a controversial decision by his predecessor Donald Trump, who sold the permits in the last days of his presidency in January.
Indigenous groups and environmentalists had already started lawsuits because, according to them, licensing in the remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was based on poor environmental analysis.
Gina McCarthy, climate advisor to the White House, welcomed Biden’s decision. “Otherwise, the character of this special place could have been changed forever.”
Alaska isn’t so happy about it. The state hoped to give its own economy a boost with the permits, which partly bought it itself.
“Our licenses are valid and cannot be taken away by the federal government,” Governor Mike Dunleavy said in a statement.
“I am against this attack on the economy of Alaska and will use all means to undo this flagrant federal mistake.”
Biden already announced in his presidential campaign that he wanted to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the northeast of the state. The reserve includes polar bears, reindeer and migratory birds.
Due to the sensitivities surrounding the permits, large oil and gas companies did not participate in the auction in January.