US to resume oil and gas drilling on public lands despite Biden’s campaign promises

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration said on Friday it had resumed plans to develop oil and gas on federal soil, a move that could violate promises Joe Biden made while campaigning for president.

The plan calls for the government to lease fewer acres for drilling than previously proposed, charge oil and gas companies higher royalties, and assess the climate impact of developing the area.

The proposal was quickly denounced by several environmental groups, one of whom called it a “reckless failure of climate leadership.” The oil industry group praised the move but said it didn’t go far enough.

The announcement by the Department of the Interior, made Friday evening before the holiday weekend, is the latest step to reform the federal oil and gas leasing program since Biden took office in January 2021. The government has faced ongoing pressure to cope with high energy prices driven by the economic recovery from pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Democrats have promised several times during his presidential campaign to halt federal drilling auctions, but those efforts have been stymied by court challenges from Republican-led states.

During a campaign event in Hudson, New Hampshire, in February 2020, Biden told the audience: “And by the way — no more drilling on federal land, period. Period, period, period.”

The Biden administration has taken several steps to tame soaring gasoline prices and inflation, exacerbated by a spike in crude oil prices resulting from the war in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions against Russia by the United States and its allies.

Inflation is seen as a significant liability for Democrats heading into the November midterm elections.

Friday’s announcement will make about 144,000 hectares available for oil and gas drilling through a series of lease sales, an 80% reduction from the land footprint that has been evaluated for leases, the Department of the Interior said in a statement.

It would also require the company to pay a royalty of 18.75% of the value of the extracted oil and gas products, up from 12.5%.

“How we manage our public lands and waters shows everything about what we value as a nation,” said Home Secretary Deb Haaland, who added that the move would “start resetting how and what we consider to be the highest and best use of people.” America.’ resource for the benefit of all present and future generations.”

The agency will issue a final environmental assessment and sales notification for upcoming oil and gas lease sales as early as next week, including ensuring tribal consultations and broad community input, the Home Department added.

The Center for Biodiversity, an environmental group, condemned the Biden government’s decision.

“The Biden administration’s claim that they should hold this lease sale is pure fiction and a reckless failure of climate leadership,” said Randi Spivak, director of public lands for the group. “It’s as if they ignored the horrors of firestorms, floods and major droughts, and accepted climate catastrophe as usual.”

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The move was hailed by the energy industry as a step in the right direction.

“To truly unleash America’s energy, the Biden Administration must continue to hold ongoing lease sales in accordance with the Mineral Lease Act, issue permits more quickly, and provide consistent regulatory certainty,” said Anne Bradbury, head of the Americas Exploration & Production Council, which its members include ConocoPhillips, Pioneer Natural Resources and Chesapeake Energy.