North Slope residents say Biden administration rule hurts their economy



(The Center Square) – Residents in Alaska’s North Slope said in a lawsuit a Biden administration rule that closes off oil and gas development for millions of acres in the National Petroleum Reserve would hurt the area’s economy.

Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, a group representing 23 Arctic member organizations, said the Bureau of Land Management claimed the rule spoke for Alaska natives, but that is not true. They are suing in Alaska’s U.S. District Court.

“Our complaint speaks for the North Slope Iñupiat’s voices whom the federal government has chosen to silence, stonewall, and scorn since it blindsided us with its unilateral mandates in September 2023,” said VOICE President Nagruk Harcharek in a news release. “It is unfortunate that we have been forced to turn to the courts for resolution on this seriously flawed rule and the process that produced it. If the administration would have meaningfully engaged with the North Slope Iñupiat, we would likely not be in this position today.”

The rule puts the area’s economy in “serious jeopardy,” the group said in its lawsuit. More than one-third of the residents’ jobs in the North Slope Borough are directly or indirectly supported by the oil and gas industry, according to the lawsuit.

“For example, the North Slope Borough was created to ensure that the local people would benefit and be provided services from the oil and gas industry through the ability to tax industry,” the lawsuit said. “These tax receipts provide the vast majority of revenue for the North Slope Borough, which is then used to provide a wide range of essential public services, including sewer, water, heat, sanitation, schools, clinics, hospitals, wildlife and fisheries management and research, infrastructure, and social and cultural programs.”

The Bureau of Land Management has stopped managing the NPR for oil and gas leasing as mandated by Congress “and, instead, has taken it upon itself to unilaterally turn the NPR-A into a de facto wilderness preserve without Congressional authorization,” the group said.

“In this way the Final NPR-A Rule represents an arbitrary, capricious, and wholly unfounded departure from how BLM has managed the NPR-A since its inception,” the lawsuit said.

The group is asking the judge to declare the rule invalid and issue an order vacating it.

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