The Biden administration has announced that it will sell only three offshore oil and gas leases over the next five years.
No oil and gas lease sales will take place in the Atlantic, Pacific, or Alaskan waters during this period, according to the statement. The three sales represent “the fewest oil and gas lease sales in history,” the department claims.
The DOI proposed the three sales in order to comply with the requirements of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed in August 2022, it said.
The law includes a provision stating that significant oil and gas lease sales be made prior to issuing renewable energy rights. The provision was added to the legislation by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in response to the Biden administration delaying and canceling oil and gas lease sales on federal land and waters.
The DOI is prohibited from issuing a wind development lease unless it has offered 60 million acres for offshore oil and gas lease in the previous year—a provision applicable for 10 years.
The three lease sales are the “minimum number” that will allow the agency to continue to expand its offshore wind leasing program through 2030, according to the statement. The Biden administration has set a goal of establishing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by the end of this decade.
The three lease sales for 2024–29 are “significantly narrowed” from the Trump administration’s proposal of 47 lease sales in the United States’ coastal areas, the DOI stated. Limiting the number of oil and gas lease sales will be in line with the Biden administration’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, the agency stated.
“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to building a clean energy future that ensures America’s energy independence,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said.
"[The proposed lease sale] sets a course for the Department to support the growing offshore wind industry and protect against the potential for environmental damage and adverse impacts to coastal communities.”
The DOI plan has attracted strong criticism.
“It’s now clear without a shadow of a doubt that without the IRA, this Administration would have ended federal oil and gas development completely,” he said.
‘Utter Failure’ of a PlanFollowing the release of the DOI oil and gas lease plan, Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), called the plan “an utter failure for the country.”
“President Biden’s approach to severely limit leasing significantly curtails access to a critical national asset at a time when energy inflation is rampant, the likelihood of a national recession looms, and global efforts are intensifying to curb greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
“The White House simply ignores our energy realities, once again limiting U.S. energy production opportunities.”
Regressive policies such as the DOI lease program will harm U.S. residents by putting “upward pressure” on energy prices at the pump, destroy good-paying jobs in Gulf Coast communities, and give the geopolitical benefit of energy production to countries such as Iran, Russia, and China, Mr. Milito said.
Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), said the Biden administration is opting for “failed energy policies.”
“This restrictive offshore leasing program is the latest tactic in a coordinated strategy to reduce energy production, ultimately weakening America’s energy dominance, limiting consumers’ access to affordable, reliable energy, and compromising our ability to lead on the global stage,” he said.
“For decades, we’ve strived for energy security, and this administration keeps trying to give it away.”
In May 2022, the DOI canceled three of the remaining oil and gas leases scheduled under the ongoing leasing plan, which ends this year. The IRA forced the Biden administration to reverse the decision.
Out of the three, only one remains for now—Lease Sale 261, which was set for Sept. 27. However, Lease Sale 261 has been delayed because of litigation.
Since he became president in 2021, President Biden has canceled the Keystone XL pipeline and issued a moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He has also revoked Trump-era orders that decreased regulations on federal land while expanding the ability to produce energy domestically.
On Sept. 6, the DOI announced that it would withdraw more than 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska from oil and gas leasing. In addition, seven leases covering 365,000 acres granted to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority in 2021 would be canceled.