Home Office releases long-awaited review of federal oil and gas leasing program

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The report, commissioned by Biden last January, outlines a series of mostly fiscal reforms to the federal oil and gas program that Interior currently “does not offer taxpayers an adequate return, even before considering the resulting climate-related costs must be borne by the taxpayer. “

Environmental groups expressed concerns about the review and called for more urgent action to address the climate crisis.

“These trivial changes are almost meaningless amid this climate emergency and break Biden’s campaign promise to stop new oil and gas leases on public land,” said Randi Spivak, director of public land at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Giving the green light to fossil fuel extraction and then pretending it’s okay by raising royalties is like moving lounge chairs on the Titanic. There is no time for small steps that allow the fossil fuel industry to wreak even greater havoc on earth. “

“We urge the Biden government to build on this report by completely ending the new oil and gas leasing,” said Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s Lands Protection Program Taking final build back. Better action to make sure our public lands are part of the climate solution, rather than enriching the oil company CEOs at the public’s expense. “

The report comes after some environmental advocates criticized the Biden government for reopening millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for drilling auction. The auction runs counter to Biden’s climate agenda – the president has promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 – and environmentalists said it could set US climate targets years back.
The government tried to stop new oil and gas wells in the early days of its administration. Biden’s January assignment paused new leases and directed the Home Office to launch a full review of existing programs related to fossil fuel development. However, a lawsuit filed in March on behalf of 13 states resulted in a judgment blocking Biden’s break, and the government is appealing that decision.

“The Home Office has a duty to responsibly manage our public land and waters – delivering taxpayers a fair return and mitigating the deteriorating climate impact – while remaining steadfast in the pursuit of environmental justice,” Interior Minister Deb Haaland said in a statement Friday. “This review outlines significant flaws in federal oil and gas programs and identifies important and urgent fiscal and programmatic reforms that will benefit the American people.”

The review finds that the fiscal components of the state’s oil and gas program are “particularly obsolete, with royalties not increasing in 100 years”.

“Consideration should be given to increasing license fees and, where permitted by law, increasing current minimum amounts for bids, rents, royalties and bonds,” the report said.

The review also encourages Congress to take action “on pending legislation to implement fundamental reforms of the onshore and offshore oil and gas programs”.

While the review of the leasing program outlines a “number of important and long overdue reforms”, Raúl Grijalva, chairman of House Natural Resources, stressed the need for more permanent solutions.

“The administration has to manage public land and water in accordance with its climate commitments, and today’s report offers no plan,” Grijalva said in a statement. “What it offers is a series of important and long overdue reforms to the state fossil fuel leasing program, which was previously a public subsidy for oil and gas drilling and production.”

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“We need new industry financial requirements and greater public transparency around leasing, and the administration should begin making these welcome changes as soon as possible,” added the Arizona Democrat.

“Meanwhile, Congress must end lavish subsidies and move forward with leasing reform laws because every American sees climate change all around them and we all know that volatile political changes on the fringes will not reduce emissions enough to protect our quality of life.”

Friday’s report also follows Biden’s announcement earlier this week that it would release emergency oil reserves to combat high energy prices ahead of the busy vacation travel season.

The government could have chosen to increase domestic oil production, but the White House was suspicious of the looks of the president and his aides pushing for more drilling at home after the major UN climate summit COP26, which Biden promised the US “leads by example” on clean energy initiatives.

This story has been updated with more details and backgrounds.


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