Via executive order, the federal government will now prohibit new drilling leases on any of its 640 million acres of public land. The leases currently in place will be permitted to continue, but the administration’s goal is for those to run their course, expire, and not be renewed.
The crux of the order states, “To the extent consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of the Interior shall pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices.”
The White House’s fact sheet says of the directive, “The order directs the Secretary of the Interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters to the extent possible, launch a rigorous review of all existing leasing and permitting practices related to fossil fuel development on public lands and waters, and identify steps that can be taken to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030.”
Biden tweeted about this, and his other environment-related orders, saying, “We have no time to waste when it comes to tackling the threat of climate change. That’s why today, I’ll be taking action to address the climate crisis with the urgency science demands.”
A group of five Texas GOP congressmen issued a joint statement criticizing the move, stating, “We share your goals of the pursuit of clean, affordable, exportable energy. However, we are very concerned with the actions your Administration has already taken in its first few days in office — halting energy production on federal lands and stymying the development of critical energy infrastructure.”
Those who signed were Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02), Van Taylor (R-TX-03), Pat Fallon (R-TX-05), August Pfluger (R-TX-11), and Michael Cloud (R-TX-27).
Four Texas Democratic members of Congress — Reps. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX-07), Vicente González (D-TX-15), Henry Cuellar (R-TX-28), and Marc Veasy (D-TX-33) — also sent a letter to Biden professing their opposition to the order.
The members stated, “We urge you to rescind this order and to reject policies that would ban responsible oil and gas leasing on federal lands and federal waters. American families rely upon secure, safe and affordable energy supplies and constituents in our districts are depending on government working proactively to move forward together in 2021 as we build back better.”
The Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO) also oppose the order.
“This will result in severe economic consequences and will interrupt the environmental progress achieved by the nation’s oil and gas sector,” said the group. “Energy produced on federal lands and waters accounts for nearly a quarter of U.S. oil production and roughly 12 percent of our nation’s natural gas output.”
On the flip side, Andrea McGimsey, senior director for Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions campaign, applauded the order, stating, “Americans have been working for years to move our country to cleaner and healthier energy sources like wind and solar. We are grateful to the Biden administration for taking this kind of leadership on climate action within a week of entering office.”
A campaign promise and feature of the Democrat’s energy plan, Texas will be minimally impacted by the drilling ban — at least compared with that of Alaska, 60 percent of which is made up of federally-owned land. Texas’ neighbor, New Mexico, will also be affected greatly.
Texas has about 3 million acres of federally owned land and, as of 2019, only about 350,000 acres house drilling operations. Most leases usually last between five and 10 years and exist in both onshore and offshore capacities.
Should Biden or another Democratic candidate win in 2024, most of those leases will have likely expired by 2028.
Back in September, the American Petroleum Institute (API), a pro-oil and gas think tank, estimated that the moratorium would cost 120,000 Texans their jobs. Further, the analysis stated that federal land drilling accounts for 22 percent and 14 percent of the nation’s oil and gas production respectively.
Biden also announced his directive to eliminate federal fossil fuel subsidies.
Energy and the environment have remained focal points for Biden — the focus of which was a prerequisite for support from the left-wing of the Democratic Party. On his first day in office, Biden revoked the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and re-enrolled the U.S. in the Paris Climate Accord.
Former Sen. John Kerry was appointed by the Biden administration to spearhead the administration’s climate and energy initiatives.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.