Energy & Environment

Haaland: No plan ‘right now’ for permanent drill leasing ban

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told lawmakers on Wednesday that there is not currently a plan to permanently ban new drilling leases on public lands and waters. 

Haaland, during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing, also reiterated that the administration’s assessment of oil and gas drilling on public lands and oceans would be released in “early summer.”

“Gas and oil production will continue well into the future,” Haaland said. “I don’t think there is a plan right now for a permanent ban … but, as I said, the review will come out early summer, and we will assess the fossil fuel programs at that time.”

“We want to make sure that American taxpayers are getting a good return on, essentially, their investment,” she also told the committee. 

When he was running for office, President Biden pledged to ban new drilling permits, which are typically granted on land that’s already leased to drillers, as part of his climate plan. 

However, since taking office, his administration has not said whether that will be its ultimate goal as it reviews federal oil and gas drilling. 

While it conducts its review, the Biden administration temporarily paused new oil and gas leasing. However, a federal judge recently placed an injunction on that pause, meaning the administration can’t keep it in place while the judge evaluates its legality.

Haaland was also pressed on the department’s implementation of that decision. 

“Has anything changed within the department from when that judge issued a decision today?” asked Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), specifically asking if the department had moved forward with a certain lease sale or published a Federal Register notice on it.

“We’re reviewing the judge’s decision,” Haaland said, adding that the department hadn’t published any notices in the Federal Register.

“It’s 44 pages,” Graves replied. “You have a whole legal team. You have a solicitor’s office. You have some very talented people, and it’s 44 pages. … I’m just trying to understand how things have changed.”

Haaland replied that she’d get him a detailed answer. 

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) suggested that Biden could declare a “climate emergency” to give the administration more power when facing lawsuits.

“I understand that a judge has put a temporary pause on that moratorium, and in light of that and just the disruption that nationwide injunctions have … I want to urge you to communicate to President Biden the necessity of declaring a climate emergency, which would bolster his authority in the face of those type of legal challenges,” he said. 

Tags climate emergency Deb Haaland Garret Graves Interior Department Jared Huffman Joe Biden oil and gas oil and gas leasing public lands
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