Biden outlines oil and gas leasing reforms, but falls short of ban
Washington — The Biden administration on Friday recommended overhauling the country’s oil and gas leasing program to focus on areas most suitable for energy development and raise energy companies’ costs to explore in public lands and water.
The long-awaited report by the Home Office did not recommend stopping oil and gas leasing on public lands, as several environmental groups have urged. But officials said the report would move toward a more responsible leasing process that would provide a better way for US taxpayers to return to explore for oil and gas in the country’s vast public lands and waters.
“Our nation faces a profound climate crisis that affects every American,” Home Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement, adding that the recommendations of the new report will provide a fair return to taxpayers and limit worsening climate impacts “while continuing to pursue environmental justice.”
The report completes a review ordered in January by President Joe Biden, who ordered a halt to federal oil and gas sales in his early days in office, citing concerns about climate change.
The comment sparked sharp criticism from Congressional Republicans and the oil industry, even as many environmentalists and Democrats said Biden should make the lease moratorium permanent.
The new report seeks to find common ground that would continue the multi-billion dollar leasing program while reforming it to end what many officials consider terms very favorable to the industry.
The leasing program has attracted renewed focus in recent weeks as gasoline prices skyrocketed and Republicans complained that Biden’s policies including halting leasing, rejecting the Keystone XL oil pipeline and banning oil leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge contributed to the price hike. .
Biden on Tuesday ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the US Strategic Reserve, aiming to lower gas prices amid concerns about inflation. Gasoline prices are about $3.40 a gallon, more than 50% higher than last year, according to the American Automobile Association.
The Biden administration made a lease deal for federal oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico last week, after prosecutors from Republican-led states filed a lawsuit in federal court to lift a suspension of federal oil and gas sales that Biden imposed when he took office.
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