Career officials to resume processing drilling permits
Career staff will once again have the final say on whether to approve drilling permits on public lands and offshore, ending a two-month period during which the Biden administration has allowed senior officials to make those decisions.
In an email Monday, an Interior spokesperson said a January order that required the agency’s leadership to approve drilling permits “expires as scheduled this week.”
The spokesperson added that career officials “will continue to process [applications for permits to drill] and related sundry activities on valid, existing leases in a timely manner.”
The January order, from acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega, “temporarily suspended” the issuance of onshore and offshore drilling permits for 60 days. However, the same order allowed permits to be approved by department leadership.
It is not clear whether the return to processing by career officials will affect the number of permits approved.
A separate order by President Biden regarding a pause on new leases has not been affected.
Biden said in an executive order that the pause, which has no end date, is pending “completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices.”
Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, said Monday’s announcement by the Interior Department shows the administration “has no comprehensive plan in place for dealing with energy and environmental issues.”
“This back-and-forth has cloaked the entire industry in confusion, and no one knows what this administration will do next,” Westerman said in a statement.
On the campaign trail, Biden pledged to ban new permits for oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters. He has not done so since taking office.