House version of Biden’s $1.75 trillion bill would cancel drilling leases in Arctic Refuge

The Canning River forms the northwestern border of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Lisa Hupp/USFWS)

Democrats in Congress are still arguing over what should be in President Biden’s Build Back Better bill, but a version that emerged Thursday includes a provision that would close the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and cancel existing leases.

The measure would repeal a section of the 2017 tax-cut law authored by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. It requires two oil lease sales in the Arctic Refuge by the end of 2024.

The ANWR reversal provision was not included in a bare-bones outline of the bill that the White House released Thursday. That framework doesn’t mention the refuge.

But the drilling repeal is included in a 1,684-page bill debated Thursday evening in the House Rules Committee. The bill is likely to change. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it may be replaced entirely.

RELATED: Budget bill in Congress could derail ANWR drilling

If the House passes it, the bill would go to the Senate. It’s a type of bill that can’t be filibustered, so it could pass with only Democratic votes. But it’s not clear that all Democrats would approve the drilling repeal. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has had an outsized role in trimming the bill, has previously voted in favor of opening the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling.

In January, the Trump administration, following the requirement of the 2017 law, held the first lease sale in the refuge, resulting in leases that cover half a million acres. Seven of the nine tracts went to the state-owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.

If the repeal goes through, the leases would be canceled immediately with payments returned to the companies that won the leases.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at

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