President Joe Biden will impose a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters on Wednesday, The Washington Post reported, quoting three people familiar with the matter.
The move, which was one of Biden’s boldest campaign pledges to counter climate change, is expected to be met with stiff resistance from the fossil fuel industry.
New documents have been prepared by the White House that will put new oil and gas auctions on federal lands and waters with the new administration reviewing those programs, the sources said. Existing leases will remain unaffected by the move and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and on public land in the West will continue.
The administration is also considering to impose a moratorium on federal coal leasing, although the sources said that officials are expected to rule against that move.
Biden is slated to announce measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase federal decision-making’s dependence on science. Among other environment-friendly policies are protecting 30% federal land and water by the end of the decade and treating climate change as a national security priority.
During his campaign, Biden promised to ban “new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters”, although, he did not specify exactly what the ban will entail.
Almost a quarter of the United States’ carbon output comes from fossil fuel leasing on federal and tribal lands, generating billions in tax revenue for the federal, state, local and tribal governments. According to the Interior Department’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue, drilling activities generated $11.7 billion in tax revenue in 2020.
The move will allow the new administration to determine if taxpayers are being adequately compensated for the minerals extracted from their lands, environmentalists say.
“By pausing the broken leasing system and halting the giveaways to oil and gas executives, President Biden has an opportunity to meaningfully fix the leasing system for the first time in nearly four decades with solutions that work for the public and which incorporate ambitious conservation, taxpayer fairness, and climate goals,” Jenny Rowland-Shea, a senior policy analyst for public land at the think-tank Center for American Progress wrote in an email, reported the Washington Post.
“We can make sure our public lands and coasts are preserved, accessible and beneficial to everyone, not abused by oil and gas corporations.”
However, oil and gas groups, like the American Petroleum Institute (API), argue that staying new leases will deprive the federal state, local governments of revenue. The industry issued criticism for the Interior Department last week after it said that new leases or permits issued over the next 60 days will have to be approved by a top-ranking Biden appointee.
API president Mike Sommers said that the move will weaken the American domestic energy producers and benefit those abroad.
“Restricting development on federal lands and waters is nothing more than an ‘import more oil’ policy,” Sommers said, adding, “Energy demand will continue to rise, especially as the economy recovers, and we can choose to produce that energy here in the United States or rely on foreign countries hostile to American interests.”
According to API, around 22% of American oil production and 12% natural gas production takes place on federal lands and waters.