Biden opens up federal oil leasing with major restrictions

by mcardinal

Megan Udinski, FISM News



The Biden administration announced on Friday that it will resume leasing federal lands for oil and gas drilling despite previous promises indicating the opposite, while also announcing new regulations including an increase in royalties.

The Department of Interior released a statement that said that they, in partnership with “the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will post notices for significantly reformed onshore lease sales that prioritize the American people’s interests in public lands and moves forward with addressing deficiencies in the federal oil and gas leasing program.”

The Biden administration has identified 173 parcels on roughly 144,000 throughout the states of Alabama, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming that it will put up for lease.  This is an 80% reduction from the amount previously nominated. 

Despite the scaled-down package, this is still a marked change from promises made by Biden during his campaign.

During a presidential campaign event in February 2020, President Biden exclaimed, “And by the way — no more drilling on federal lands, period, period, period, period.” 

Almost immediately after taking office, the president released an executive order that slashed America’s energy sector which Biden said was for the purpose of environmental climate protection. That order has since been shown to have contained unrealistic promises while also increasing the burden on Americans and American fueling companies. 

According to data published on April 12 by the U.S. Labor Department, inflation is at the highest it has been since December 1981 at an annual rate of 8.5% and gas prices alone are sitting at $4.077 per gallon on average according to AAA compared to a $2.24 average in 2020. Conservatives have pointed to Biden’s anti-domestic energy stance as contributing to these massive price hikes.

Now, due to the Ukraine/Russia conflict and the ever-increasing price demands on Americans, the president has had to change his tune, but it comes with a caveat. 

The announcement to reopen public lands leasing for oil and gas drilling contained a quote from Secretary Deb Haaland which highlighted a change in philosophy.

For too long, the federal oil and gas leasing programs have prioritized the wants of extractive industries above local communities, the natural environment, the impact on our air and water, the needs of Tribal Nations, and, moreover, other uses of our shared public lands.

The most notable change is that drilling agencies will now have to pay a royalty increase from 12.5% to 18.75%, ultimately increasing the cost of energy production.

Those concerned with the realities of this proposal have said the president’s actions seem to be trying to appease both sides of the aisle while accomplishing little.

Kathleen Sgamma, the president of Western Energy Alliance commented, “While we’re glad to see [the Bureau of Land Management] is finally going to announce a sale, the extreme reduction of acreage by 80%, after a year and a quarter without a single sale, is unwarranted and does nothing to show that the administration takes high energy prices seriously.” 

Sgamma further stated that she believes the current administration is prioritizing political gain rather than factoring in the impact of the average citizen in their decision making.

The sales being considered were the ones that had already been fully analyzed at the end of the Trump administration and were ready to go before the Biden administration decided to redo the analysis. This administration has decided to make leasing and production a political football, and Americans are paying the price at the pump.

John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a Senate Energy Committee Ranking Member, also voiced dissatisfaction with the announcement, saying, “The president claims he’s doing nothing to limit domestic production, but once again his administration is making American energy more expensive and harder to produce.”

On the other side of the issue, environmental groups feel that Biden’s intentions cater too much to the energy industry. The public lands director for The Center for Biological Diversity commented, “The Biden administration’s claim that it must hold these lease sales is pure fiction and a reckless failure of climate leadership. It’s as if they’re ignoring the horror of firestorms, floods and megadroughts, and accepting climate catastrophes as business as usual.”