Biden eyes cost increase for drilling on public land

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


The Biden Administration stopped short of a full shutdown of drilling on public lands, but the cost of doing so is likely to increase.

Friday, the Department of the Interior released a report in which it detailed its plans to preserve the nation’s public land and waterways, a report which environmental activists had hoped would make permanent what had been a pause on the leasing of federal lands to oil companies.

“Our nation faces a profound climate crisis that is impacting every American,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said. “The Interior Department has an obligation to responsibly manage our public lands and waters – providing a fair return to the taxpayer and mitigating worsening climate impacts – while staying steadfast in the pursuit of environmental justice. This review outlines significant deficiencies in the federal oil and gas programs, and identifies important and urgent fiscal and programmatic reforms that will benefit the American people.”

The goal, the department said, was to address environmental issues by “adjusting royalty and bonding rates, prioritizing leasing in areas with known resource potential, and avoiding leasing that conflicts with recreation, wildlife habitat, conservation, and historical and cultural resources, all of which are consistent with pending congressional proposals.”

It was not clear how large the cost increase would be.

The move, meant to establish middle ground between groups most concerned about climate issues and those focused on soaring energy costs, drew criticism from environmentalists and Republicans alike.

“While the nation is still reeling from Biden’s energy crisis, his administration continues to push a radical climate agenda that will hurt every day Americans,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted.

The Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group that has long urged Biden to take more aggressive action to prevent drilling, was particularly outspoken in its response to the Interior report.

“Today’s report is a complete failure of climate leadership,” Taylor McKinnon, Senior Public Lands Campaigner for the center, tweeted Friday. “The science is clear: More fossil fuel expansion, which this report presumes, is incompatible with avoiding 1.5 C warming.”

Brett Hartl, director of government affairs for the center, told the New York Times the report was a “massive betrayal” and “isn’t worth the paper it was written on” due to its lack of focus on climate change.

The center’s official twitter account quoted Hartl as saying, “We expected a programmatic review that takes into account not only the environmental harms of drilling at the local and landscape level, but also the impact on the global climate crisis that we’re in.”

The Interior’s report was one of two green-initiative announcements the department made last week.

Wednesday, the department announced plans to launch an offshore wind project that will lead to 12 or fewer turbines being constructed in federal waters off the coast of Rhode Island.