US President Joe Biden has obviously no intention to fulfill his campaign promise to halt drilling and will now allow new leasing – though with new restrictions and higher fees on producers – of federal lands for oil and natural gas exploration.
Although he ordered a pause on new leases on federal lands shortly after taking office in January in line with his campaign promises, Biden was forced earlier this week to announce a release of 50 million barrels of oil from the government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to calm the criticism he faced in recent months over soaring gasoline prices.
The long-awaited report of the US Department of the Interior on the government’s minerals-leasing programs, issued on Friday, recommends limiting the new sales to areas with already existing oil and gas infrastructure.
The new plan will allow oil companies to lease new exploration prospects near established fields in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico although it’ll prevent opening up new drilling frontiers like the Atlantic Seaboard.
Kassie Siegel, director of the center’s Climate Law Institute called the Interior Department’s report a complete failure of the climate leadership while the Center for Biological Diversity branded it pathetic and disappointing, pointing it as an abandonment of Biden’s campaign promise.
Stressing the existence of a profound climate crisis that is impacting every citizen which the United States is facing, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland pointed that his department has an obligation to responsibly manage the public lands and waters while staying unwavering in the pursuit of environmental justice.
He underlined that those actions also include providing a fair return to the taxpayer and mitigating worsening climate impacts
The Interior Department’s other recommendations also include demanding oil companies to pay increased royalty payments as well as higher bond payments that will be set aside to cover future cleanup costs.
Though the report didn’t point to specific areas in which federal lands will be kept off-limits to drilling, Haaland stressed that they will prioritize leasing in areas with known resource potential and avoid new drilling that “conflicts with wildlife habitat, conservation, and historical resources.”
Yet, the report established exploration and production areas that will clearly remain open for leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico as well as Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana.
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