Interior Secretary: No Plan ‘Right Now’ to Permanently Ban New Oil, Gas Leasing

June 23, 2021 Updated: June 23, 2021

WASHINGTON—U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said at a House committee hearing on June 23 that the Biden administration has no plan to permanently ban new oil and gas drilling on federal land.

“Gas and oil production will continue well into the future,” Haaland said during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing. “I don’t think there is a plan right now for a permanent ban.”

Haaland’s comments came after a federal judge on June 15 blocked the Biden administration’s temporary ban on new leases to drill for oil and gas on public lands and waters. The Biden administration in January suspended new oil and gas leasing and drilling for 60 days and ordered the Interior Department to conduct a “comprehensive review” of its leasing program.

During the hearing, Haaland said that the review would be released “early summer.”

“We will assess the fossil fuel programs at that time,” she said.

President Joe Biden campaigned on ending the extraction of fossil fuels on public lands. Roughly more than 20 percent of oil production and more than 10 percent of gas production in the United States comes from leased public lands and federally managed waters.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents 200 oil and gas companies in many Western states, called Haaland’s statement “pretty ambiguous.”

“I guess it’s good. It implies she just may not know what they’re doing yet and even if she did know, that plan could change in the near future,” she told The Epoch Times in an email.

The Interior Department has submitted its report about the future of the federal oil and gas program to the White House, according to E&E News. The report will lay out the plan on how the Interior Department will conduct its “comprehensive review,” and the report is expected to come out on June 25, according to Sgamma.

“I guess we’ll find out soon what the plan is. I suspect the review will take at least a few years leaving plenty of time left to wonder if the ultimate outcome will be another unlawful attempt to stop leasing,” she said.

Sgamma added that Haaland’s statement at the hearing recognizes “that neither she nor the president have the authority to simply ban leasing.”

U.S. crude inventories dropped 7.6 million barrels for the week ended June 18, according to a report from the Energy Information Administration on Jun 23. That marked the fifth consecutive decline reported by the agency.

Critics argue that the administration’s climate agenda is making it hard for domestic producers to invest to meet the country’s growing energy demand; hence, they are concerned that the United States would end up being more dependent on oil imports from overseas.

Environmental groups, on the other hand, demand Biden fight harder for the climate agenda.

The Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group on climate change, reacted to Haaland’s comments, saying they contradicted “Biden’s repeated promises to ban fracking on public lands.”

“It now seems that Biden has no intention of keeping that promise,” Mitch Jones, policy director at the advocacy group, said in a statement.

“This would be a disastrous capitulation to the fossil fuel industry, and a worrying sign that this White House is not committed to the kinds of actions necessary to stave off climate catastrophe,” he said.

Follow Emel on Twitter: @mlakan