What You Need to Know About H.R. 6285 – An Arctic Extraction Bill 

In December 2023, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources voted to advance Rep. Stauber’s (R-MN) “Alaska’s Right to Produce Act of 2023” (HR 6285). If passed into law, this extreme legislation would not only reverse the recent safeguards the Biden administration put in place to protect 13 million acres of the Western Arctic, but it would also undo the cancelation of oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge and roll back 125 million acres of the Arctic Ocean from indiscriminate oil drilling. The bill prioritizes resource extraction above all other uses of our public lands which are also sacred lands and cultural resources for Indigenous communities. 

“This bill makes it abundantly clear that Congressional Republicans will continue to prioritize extractive industries, putting people, communities and landscapes in harm’s way in the beleaguered hope of turning a profit,” said Alex Cohen, government affairs director at Alaska Wilderness League. “Every step forward the administration takes to protect America’s Arctic, Congressional Republicans take us two steps back.”

To get a little more into the weeds, H.R. 6285 reinstates the 2020 Record of Decision for the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain Leasing Program, requiring the administration to reissue the seven canceled leases which were found by the Department of the Interior to be unlawfully issued. The bill also waives all environmental safeguards and precludes all executive and judicial authority and oversight — mandating by legislative fiat the approval of all authorizations and permits required to proceed with drilling in the Refuge. 

H.R. 6285 would also withdraw the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) proposed NPR-A Rule — a conservation effort that, when finalized, will help protect surface resources and the 13 million acres of designated “Special Areas” meant to be managed for conservation in the Western Arctic. Without additional protections, this pristine landscape will continue to industrialize rapidly, contributing to species loss, land degradation, and climate change. 

Worse, H.R. 6285 would prohibit the BLM from issuing any substantially similar rule in the future — forcing the BLM, and all future administrations, to succumb to a broken status quo that seeks to prioritize fossil fuel extraction in the Western Arctic over all else. This proposed rule is a long overdue, common-sense reform and is consistent with the directives in the law governing the Reserve, the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act, which requires the Department of the Interior to protect “environmental, fish and wildlife, and historical or scenic values.” 

H.R. 6285 also seeks to eliminate 125 million acres of existing protections from oil and gas leasing in the Chukchi, Bering, and Beaufort Seas created by President Obama and restored by President Biden (EO 13990) using Presidential authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.  

The Chukchi and Beaufort Seas provide vital habitat for many marine mammals, birds and fish, including the Pacific walrus, polar bear, bowhead whale, ice seals and Steller’s eider. Both presidents provided these protections because of the catastrophic impacts an oil spill would have on fish, wildlife and subsistence in a frozen ocean environment where we have neither the infrastructure, technology, nor experience to contain and clean up such a spill. 

H.R. 6285 would also have effects beyond oil and gas by revoking President Obama’s executive order creating the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area. That order, signed at the request of over 70 Tribes, creates protections and processes for including Tribal voices in management for over 100,000 square miles of ocean in northwestern Alaska. This highly productive ecosystem area supports one of the largest seasonal marine mammal migrations in the world, including thousands of bowhead and beluga whales, hundreds of thousands of walruses and ice seals, and millions of migratory birds. 

While this pro-drilling bill stands to set back significant progress to protect America’s Arctic, we applaud climate champions like Rep. Huffman (D-CA), Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rep. Kamlager-Dove (D-CA) in the committee for continuing to stand strong in defense of these critical landscapes. The fossil fuel industry is attempting to exempt Arctic oil & gas industrialization from bedrock environmental protection laws, and we’re fighting back.