Environmentalists sue the state over oil and gas concessions in Alaska

No more kidding with IRA: Environmentalists sue Biden administration to stop drilling in Alaska

To prevent the auction of oil and gas drilling rights off the coast of Alaska that is slated to take place next week, environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Wednesday.

They brought the lawsuit before an Alaskan federal court at the same time as the Interior Department was getting ready to sell almost 1 million acres in the Cook Inlet on December 30. The Inflation Reduction Act, President Joe Biden’s response to climate change, includes the sale as one of its concessions to the oil and gas industry (IRA).

The point of IRA

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives approved the $430 billion Inflation Reduction Act in August. It intends to increase corporate taxes, encourages sustainable energy, and lower healthcare prices.

Democrats exclusively designed and supported the measure. It included the support from President Joe Biden, who has praised its ability in decreasing costs for many Americans who are now dealing with the highest inflation rates in decades.

The following is what it offers in terms of energy:

  • Credits for electric vehicles: Depending on their income, some car purchasers may be eligible to redeem rebates for buying electric vehicles at auto dealerships as early as this year, including $7,500 for new and $4,000 for used cars. The administration needs to identify precisely which vehicles qualify under the battery sourcing and essential minerals standards, and the U.S. Treasury needs to draft regulations on that income verification.
  • Credits for homeowners: The law includes $4.28 billion in home rebate schemes that each state will run; these states must create rules, like income restrictions. The program offers rebates of up to $1,750 for heat pump water heaters, up to $8,000 for heat pump HVAC systems, and additional incentives for upgrading electrical panels and insulating buildings. The initiative is valid until September 30, 2031.
  • Solar panels and solar battery systems: Up until December 31, 2034, homeowners who install residential solar panels or solar battery systems are eligible for a 30% tax credit. After the individual states have created the program’s rules, it will make the credits available.

Environmentalists are against concessions to the oil and gas industry

The Biden administration, in accordance with IRA, now must hold the auction for selling oil and gas drilling rights by December 31. Before the IRA got into force, the Interior had abandoned the Cook Inlet sale due to a lack of interest from the industry.

Cook Inletkeeper, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Center for Biological Diversity, Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, and Natural Resources Defense Council are the organizations suing the administration.

The groups claimed that by failing to sufficiently take into account the sale’s effects on climate change as well as those on threatened species, including the Cook Inlet beluga whale and humpback whales, the environmental study of the transaction violated federal environmental regulations.

The organizations request the court to nullify the environmental study and any leases that are signed after the sale.

There are severe climate effects in Alaska already

The complaint said that Cook Inlet is already experiencing severe effects of climate change, and new oil and gas leasing will only magnify those harms.

180 miles (290 km) separate Anchorage from the Gulf of Alaska along the Cook Inlet.

Since the 1970s, the federal government has staged a number of oil and gas lease auctions in the Cook Inlet. Still, no production has yet taken place in federal waters, according to the environmental study of the sale. There are 14 active federal leases there right now, all of which are owned by Hilcorp.

All the active oil and gas platforms in the region are located in state waters, but oil output has significantly decreased since its 1970s high.