Biden could have a hard time protecting Alaska wildlife, thanks to the GOP

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A provision of the 2017 tax law may make it difficult for Joe Biden to prevent oil drilling in the Alaska wildlife refuge.

During his 2020 campaign for president, Democratic nominee Joe Biden pledged to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

However, as the Hill notes, the ability of the Biden administration to make changes to protect ANWR may be hampered by a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

In July, the Biden campaign posted on its website a proposal it called "The Biden Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice." Included in its bullet points was the promise that among "Biden's Day One Unprecedented Executive Actions to Drive Historic Progress" would be

Protecting America's natural treasures by permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas impacted by President Trump’s attack on federal lands and waters, establishing national parks and monuments that reflect America’s natural heritage, banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, modifying royalties to account for climate costs, and establishing targeted programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewables on federal lands and waters with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030.

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In mid-August, the Department of the Interior posted a press release noting that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt had "signed a Record of Decision approving the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. The leasing program is required by law in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (Public Law 115-97), which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017."

The release said: "The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 directs the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to conduct at least two area-wide leasing sales, not less than 400,000 acres each, within the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Program area of ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). The lease sales must be held within seven years with the first lease sale taking place before December 22, 2021 and the second lease sale before December 22, 2024."

The Trump administration is already hard at work on closing the first lease. Last week, it issued a "request for nominations" asking oil companies to select preferred areas in the Alaska wildlife refuge for drilling, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Hill noted that even if the Biden administration is unable to remove the provision of the tax law that requires that the oil and gas leases be sold, it could also put restrictions on drilling through the Bureau of Land Management, in accordance with requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

The oil and gas leasing provisions of the 2017 tax law are far from the Trump administration's only policies that are likely to have dire consequences for the environment.

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed protections under the Endangered Species Act from gray wolves, in what the Center for Biological Diversity's Collette Adkins called the "broadest, most destructive delisting rule yet."

The construction of Trump's wall along the border between the United States and Mexico is another danger to the environment.

Scott Nicol, a Texas-based conservation activist, told NPR that the Army Corps of Engineers has acquired the Salineño Wildlife Preserve in Starr County on the border, which contains "2 1/2 acres of some of the best bird habitat, brings in birders from all over the country and the world" and "is set to be destroyed for the border wall."

On Nov. 6, Michael Kuperberg, executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, was removed from his role as leader of the program, which encompasses 13 federal agencies and conducts the congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment every four years.

According to the program's website, the Trump administration pushed the fifth climate change report off until 2023, even though it is due to be released in 2022. The assessment provides critical information about climate change.

Kuperberg's removal paves the way for climate change skeptic David Legates to lead the program, the E&E News and the New York Times reported. Trump appointed Legates to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in September.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.