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Interior Says It Is ‘Moving Forward’ on Oil, Gas Leases on Public Land

Interior Says It Is ‘Moving Forward’ on Oil, Gas Leases on Public Land

With prices rising at the gas pump — and a court order that allows climate change consideration when developing the agency’s policies — President Joe Biden’s Department of the Interior announced on Friday it will resume plans for issuing oil and gas leases on federal land. Biden had halted any oil and gas development on public land in the early days of his presidency and the issue has been in and out of the courts since.

The case is the Louisiana v. Biden, Case No. 22-30087 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District.

The Biden administration was fighting to include a climate change metric in its leasing decisions, while red state governors sued, claiming lease restrictions on federal land hurt American workers and states’ economies. No announcement is posted on the Dept. of Interior’s official website as of press time, but Interior spokesperson Melissa Schwartz emailed a statement to press contacts following the court ruling issued earlier this week. “With this ruling, the department continues its planning for responsible oil and gas development on America’s public lands and waters,” Schwartz said in the statement. “We have heard directly from [the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)] that the district court ruling caused them to stop progress because they would have had to change the analysis, but now that’s not the case, they can move forward,” Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, said in an email.

The BLM is the entity at Interior that manages federal lands and resources.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade group that represent the oil and gas industry, sent an email to reporters on Friday praising the development. “At a time when the administration and allies around the world are calling for more American energy, we welcome the Department of the Interior’s announcement today and urge the administration to hold onshore lease sales under the Mineral Leasing Act with sufficient acreage and fair terms,” API said. “We also call on the administration to accelerate the long delayed five-year program for leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf.” The API further pointed out the need for the Biden administration to address issues in its leasing process, such as poor planning and timeliness of processing: Since 1980, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior has been required to prepare a 5-year program to best meet national energy needs for the 5-year period, including a schedule of oil and gas lease sales and details on the size, timing and location of proposed leasing activity.

The next 5-year offshore leasing program must be in place by July 1, 2022, as the current program is scheduled to expire and there will be no opportunities to obtain new leases for federal offshore development. Unfortunately, DOI is well-behind schedule in this multi-year regulatory process and has yet to initiate the third comment period required for completion. It is unclear how quickly this move will filter down to increase domestic production and benefit American consumers. “Leasing is just one step in a process that companies need to take to extract oil and gas from federal lands and waters, so changes in leasing policy are not expected to have significant short-term impacts on fuel availability,” the Hill reported. Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.

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