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Biden To Freeze New Oil And Gas Leasing On Federal Land

2021.03.18 14:09



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Biden To Freeze New Oil And Gas Leasing On Federal Land

Jemima McEvoy Forbes Staff Business I'm a British-born reporter covering breaking news for Forbes. Updated Jan 26, 2021, 12:47pm EST Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin

Topline

President Biden plans to announce a suspension of new oil and gas leasing on federal lands Wednesday, according to multiple reports, delivering on a campaign climate pledge that is already receiving strong pushback from the oil industry.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 25: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks before signing an executive order ... [+] related to American manufacturing in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden signed an executive order aimed at boosting American manufacturing and strengthening the federal government's Buy American rules. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Key Facts

Biden has drafted an order that will impose a moratorium on new oil and gas auctions on federal land and water as his administration reviews the current program, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

This pause, which is reportedly still awaiting final review, would not impact existing leases, but appears to be a step toward Biden’s campaign pledges to “transition away from the oil industry” and ban future leases.

Bloomberg previously reported a moratorium on new federal coal leasing was also under consideration, but the administration is reportedly leaning away from this option.

Along with the moratorium, Biden will also unveil other plans relating to climate change on Wednesday, according to the reports, including a goal to protect 30% of federal land and water by 2030.

The White House did not immediately confirm these plans with Forbes .

Key Background

Biden has long promised aggressive action on climate change, which he has named one of the four crises he hopes to tackle during his administration. The extraction of fossil fuels from public lands accounts for roughly one-quarter of all U.S. carbon emissions, and environmentalists praise the Biden administration’s pivot away from former President Trump’s efforts to relax regulations . “By pausing the broken leasing system and halting the giveaways to oil and gas executives, President Biden has an opportunity to meaningfully fix the leasing system for the first time in nearly four decades with solutions that work for the public and which incorporate ambitious conservation, taxpayer fairness, and climate goals,” Jenny Rowland-Shea, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, told The Washington Post . However, oil and gas groups have warned that this move, along with Biden’s decision to require approval by a top-ranking administration official for any leases or permits granted within the first 60 days of his presidency, will only serve to harm domestic energy producers and state and local governments.

Chief Critic

“Restricting development on federal lands and waters is nothing more than an ‘import more oil’ policy,” Mike Sommers, the president of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement sent to Forbes . “Energy demand will continue to rise—especially as the economy recovers—and we can choose to produce that energy here in the United States or rely on foreign countries hostile to American interests.”

Surprising Fact

A short-term freeze poses limited immediate threat to production as many companies still have undeveloped leases in their portfolios that will allow them to continue drilling new wells. In fact, according to a recent Government Accountability Report, only around half of the permits to drill approved between 2014 and 2019 are currently in use. However, drilling advocates are worried about a more severe impending crackdown.

Big Number

$11.7 billion. That’s how much drilling on federal land generated in tax revenue for federal, state, local and tribal governments in 2020.

Further Reading

“Biden’s Order to Freeze New Oil Drilling on Federal Land: What You Need To Know” (Wall Street Journal)

“The Trump Administration Rolled Back More Than 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s The Full List.” (The New York Times)

Follow me on Twitter . Send me a secure tip . Jemima McEvoy

I'm a British-born reporter covering breaking news for Forbes.

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