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Moderate Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin blasted the Biden administration and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for doing little, if anything, to help alleviate the ongoing energy crisis.
Speaking at a hearing of the Senate Energy Committee on the Department of the Interior’s budget request for fiscal year 2023, Manchin hammered the Biden administration for failing to increase domestic oil, natural gas, and critical minerals production. He also took the Interior Department to task for canceling several large oil leases, and imposing a set of restrictions and costs on new oil and gas leases that would disincentivize new oil and gas development altogether.
“We are holding this hearing during trying times,” Manchin began. “Putin’s horrific invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s weaponization of oil and gas, increasing energy and food prices worldwide, and the growing challenge of competition with China. Given the current global situation, it is essential for the United States to step up to the plate as the superpower of the world.”
“That includes the responsible development of our abundant energy and mineral resources. Unfortunately, even as we see Russia wage a war enabled by energy insecurity in Europe, this administration has made its opposition to domestic oil and gas production crystal clear – on and off Federal lands and waters,” he continued.
ICYMI: In an @EnergyDems hearing today on the President’s budget request for @Interior for FY 2023, Chairman @Sen_JoeManchin urged the Biden Administration to rethink its approach to energy policy to protect America’s energy and national security. pic.twitter.com/LommrXC1o8
— SenateEnergyDems (@EnergyDems) May 19, 2022
Manchin said he supported a “pause” on new leases at a hearing last year, but since then, there have been no new leases, according to Manchin. The administration did hold a lease sale in the fall because of a court order, but those sales were later vacated by another court and went unchallenged by the administration, Manchin said.
The senator said that the Biden administration is scheduled to hold lease sales in June, but only a fraction of the available land and at a higher royalty rate, and only because of a court order. “I’m sorry to say it has become crystal clear that the ‘pause’ is in fact a ‘ban,’” Manchin said, noting the recent cancellation of three large offshore oil leases.
Manchin then criticized the Biden administration’s excuse that there are 9,000 unused drilling permits, so no new leases need to be sold. First, he pointed out that the number refers to onshore leases, not offshore leases. Second, he said those leases go through an “arduous” review process, with further review before a drilling permit is issued. Third, he said that logistics and building the rig also take time, which is why the permits last two years and can be extended for good cause. Manchin stated that 7,000 permits have been extended for such reasons.
Manchin then blasted the administration for pursuing a royalty increase for certain leases that he said “may disincentivize pursuing federal leases at all.” He also excoriated regulations and public statements that he said have a chilling effect on new investment.
“My frustration is at an all-time high that we are talking to OPEC, Iran, and Venezuela to increase oil output while we are at the same time blocking increased energy production at home,” he said. “What does it say to producers here in the United States when we consider working with the Venezuelan government, which certainly doesn’t share our values, instead of supporting domestic or North American production? Is this really in our best interest?”
Manchin also said the United State was still relying too much on China to supply critical minerals and not doing enough to open up domestic mining and processing.
“The only way we will be able to guarantee our energy security, which will also allow us to develop the technology to meet our climate goals, is to rely on ourselves and our proven partners around the globe,” he said. “Given my experience with the so-called leasing ‘pause,’ and the missed Energy Act deadlines, I must admit that I am skeptical that this administration will ultimately support the development of these types of critical mineral projects.”