Energy & Environment

GOP senator to introduce bill barring Biden from restricting drilling on federal lands

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) is set to introduce a bill that would restrict the White House from unilaterally blocking new leasing for oil and gas drilling on federal lands without congressional approval.

President Biden plans to sign an executive order later Wednesday to implement a pause on new oil and gas activity on federal lands as part of a series of actions to tackle climate change. 

“For the president to attempt to use his authority as president to override provisions that are in federal law is inappropriate and certainly will be catastrophic,” Lummis said on a call with reporters Wednesday morning.

The senator denounced the executive order as “pick[ing] on eight states that are producing energy” to satisfy Democrats’ “radical minority and elites on both coasts” and presented energy extraction versus conservation as a false choice.

The executive order, she added, is “just a nod to placate people who don’t live in those western states” and “we want to make sure that he cannot do that without an act of Congress.”

Lummis said the full bill will likely be released Thursday simultaneously with the House version.

The announcement came the day after Lummis tweeted a condemnation of the order Tuesday, saying it will “have unprecedented economic consequences on WY and the US,” including “[l]ost wages and jobs, declining economic activity and lost tax revenue.”

Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.) is set to be the lead sponsor of the House version of the bill, which has little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled chamber.

An earlier order, issued by the Interior Department on the first full day of Biden’s presidency, blocks new leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands for 60 days. But the Wednesday order is set to extend the moratorium beyond 60 days.

In addition, the order directs Interior to limit new leases “to the extent possible,” while excluding oil activity on Native American lands that could be a source of revenue for tribes. 

“[T]he Biden administration is rightfully attempting to take stock of the damage and make sure the agency is following the law, instead of rubber-stamping destructive projects that were in the pipeline,” Jesse Prentice-Dunn, policy director at the Center for Western Priorities, a public lands watchdog group, said in a statement Friday.

Other environmental actions taken by Biden since his inauguration include the halting of the KeystoneXL pipeline project and the rejoining of the Paris climate accords.

Tags Cynthia Lummis drilling lease drilling on federal land federal lands Wyoming
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