US to Launch Review of Future of Federal Oil Leasing Program Under Biden’s Order

March 9, 2021 Updated: March 9, 2021

President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday announced its upcoming review of the federal oil and gas program, per the president’s executive order.

The Interior Department said it would host a forum on March 25 that will feature industry representatives, labor and environmental justice organizations, natural resource advocates, and other experts.

“The federal oil and gas program is not serving the American public well. It’s time to take a close look at how to best manage our nation’s natural resources with current and future generations in mind,” Laura Daniel-Davis, principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management, said in a statement.

“This forum will help inform the Department’s near-term actions to restore balance on America’s lands and waters and to put our public lands’ energy programs on a more sound and sustainable conservation, fiscal and climate footing,” she added.

Officials will use information from the forum in an interim report the department expects to release next summer, outlining the next steps and recommendations to “improve stewardship of public lands and waters, create jobs, and build a just and equitable energy future,” according to the agency.

Biden signed a climate order in January that, among a slew of other directives, directs the Interior Department to pause all new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and in offshore waters pending completion of a review.

Officials shall reconsider federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices, according to the order, which stated, “In conducting this analysis, and to the extent consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of the Interior shall consider whether to adjust royalties associated with coal, oil, and gas resources extracted from public lands and offshore waters, or take other appropriate action, to account for corresponding climate costs.”

Acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega on Jan. 20 ordered local officials to stop issuing oil and gas leases and the administration last month paused the first oil and gas lease sales of the year to comply with the mandate.

Epoch Times Photo
Workers tend to a wellhead during a hydraulic fracturing operation outside Rifle, Colo., on March 29, 2013. (Brennan Linsley/AP Photo)

In announcing the order, Biden said that the United States and the world “face a profound climate crisis,” adding, “We have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.”

The policies could drive gas prices, which are spiking primarily due to demand, even higher, experts told The Epoch Times.

Lawmakers from both sides, meanwhile, have said Biden’s efforts are damaging businesses in a number of states, such as New Mexico.

If permitting delays continue, a bipartisan group of House members wrote to de la Vega last week, then “existing operations could be forced to shut down.” That would cause the department to be in violation of existing law through the unlawful taking of property rights, the legislators said, urging him to restore decision-making authority to issue permits to local agency experts.

Other lawmakers, though, have introduced bills that would reform oil and gas leases. The House natural resources committee was holding a hearing on Tuesday to discuss the bills, including one from Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) that would raise royalties, rental rates, inspection fees, and penalties on oil and gas companies that extract any resources from public land.

“Public lands are a collective national treasure that belong to the American people—polluters that want to extract energy on these lands owe taxpayers a fair price,” Porter said in a March 2 statement. “We haven’t raised the rental rate for mining on public lands since I was in junior high, and we’ve been charging oil and gas companies the same royalty rate for over 100 years. My Ending Taxpayer Welfare for Oil and Gas Companies Act would protect taxpayers and give these prices a decades-overdue update.”

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