President Joe Biden plans to implement a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal land on Wednesday as his administration continues to crack down on fossil fuel development.
Biden is prepared to suspend issuing new drilling permits to oil companies for wells on federal land indefinitely while the Department of the Interior conducts a review of oil development’s impact on climate change, according to The Wall Street Journal. While federal land only accounts for about 9% of onshore U.S. oil production, Biden’s order will have an outsized impact on states such as New Mexico where the federal government controls about a third of the state.
Many view the new moratorium as a significant step towards Biden fulfilling his campaign promise to end oil drilling on federal land and offshore, according to WSJ. Critics have pointed out that multiple times during the campaign, Biden and his team promised he would “not ban fracking.”
On Biden’s first day in office, interim Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega issued an order freezing new oil and gas drilling permits on federal land for 60 days. The limited order brought stiff blowback from officials in New Mexico as well as leaders of the Ute Indian Tribe in Utah, which is nearly two-thirds owned by the federal government.
“During his inauguration, President Biden spoke about bringing our nation together. Eliminating drilling on public lands will cost thousands of New Mexicans their jobs and destroy what’s left of our state’s economy,” Dale Janway, the mayor of Carlsbad, New Mexico, said. “How does that bring us together? Environmental efforts should be fair and well-researched, not knee-jerk mandates that just hurt an already impoverished state.”
Luke Duncan, the chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee, sent a letter to de la Vega on Jan. 21 criticizing the temporary stay on new drilling permits, which also impacted tribal lands that Duncan argued should be exempt.
“The Ute Indian Tribe and other energy producing tribes rely on energy development to fund our governments and provide services to our members,” Duncan wrote. “Your order is a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination. Indian lands are not federal public lands. Any action on our lands and interests can only be taken after effective tribal consultation.”
The Biden administration’s planned order to suspend new oil drilling permits compounds with other actions locking back up an oil preserve in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska that former President Donald Trump had pushed to open. Biden also rescinded a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have shipped oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Illinois and Texas. Biden’s decision on Keystone XL brought backlash from top Canadian officials.
As The Daily Wire reported:
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he was “deeply disturbed” by Biden’s decision to stop work on the $8 billion project. Kenney had threatened legal action earlier in the week after reports of Biden’s intent to kill the pipeline surfaced.
“This is a gut punch for the Canadian and Alberta economies. Sadly it is an insult directed at the United States’ most important ally and trading partner,” Kenney told a news conference, according to Reuters.
TC Energy Corp., an Alberta-based company, announced it had suspended work on the Keystone XL pipeline on Wednesday ahead of Biden’s inauguration and in anticipation of the U.S. president’s revocation of the pipeline’s permit. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said at the time that TC Energy’s suspension of work was “incredibly troubling.”
“Now is the time for our nations to strengthen our trading relationship, not erect further barriers to collaborative and sustainable development,” Moe said in a statement, according to the Financial Post.