Energy & Environment

Interior faces backlog of more than 5K drilling permits

The Interior Department is facing a backlog of more than 5,000 applications for permits to drill on public lands and just a handful have been approved so far under the Biden administration, according to data released by the department on Friday.

The onshore permit application backlog was at 5,477 when President Biden took office in January and has risen to 5,505 as of Feb. 4. 

According to the department, the pace and scope of the permit review was not impacted by an order the day after Biden took office that put agency leadership in charge of authorizing permits. 

It said that 99.5 percent of the permits are currently being reviewed by state offices and that none of them are awaiting leadership approval, though five onshore have been approved under the Biden administration. 

Bloomberg reported a week after Biden became president that a total of 31 onshore and offshore permits had been approved under the new administration. 

The president has issued an executive order that temporarily paused new leasing on public lands, but it did not prevent the issuance of permits to drill on lands that have already been leased. 

The move has sparked pushback from some Republicans, who say it will hurt their states’ economies, though the administration has noted that millions of acres that have been leased are not currently being used. 

While on the campaign trail, Biden pledged to take additional steps, saying he would ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters. 

Tags Drilling Environment Interior Department Joe Biden leasing public lands Regulation

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