Energy & Environment

Biden administration to review federal coal leasing, appeal injunction for oil leasing pause

Greg Nash

The Biden administration will review coal leasing on federal lands this week, officials said Monday while also announcing a plan to appeal an order that halted a moratorium on oil and gas leasing. 

“Interior will release a notice of intent to conduct a review of the federal coal leasing program later this week,” said a statement that was attributed to the Interior Department and not any specific person. 

Spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said via email that the review would not include any sort of pause on new federal coal leases like the administration had implemented for oil and gas. 

In the statement, which also announced the appeal of a court order halting the pause on issuing new oil and gas leases on public lands and waters, the department argued that this appeal is “important and necessary.”

“Together, federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leasing programs are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and growing climate and community impacts. Yet the current programs fail to adequately incorporate consideration of climate impacts into leasing decisions or reflect the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions including, for example, in royalty rates,” it said. 

The department indicated that while the appeal from the Justice Department is considered, federal oil and gas leasing will continue as required by the current injunction. 

“Interior will proceed with leasing consistent with the district court’s injunction during the appeal,” the department said. “In complying with the district court’s mandate, Interior will continue to exercise the authority and discretion provided under the law to conduct leasing in a manner that takes into account the program’s many deficiencies.”

President Biden implemented the pause on new oil and gas leases earlier this year, saying that this would go on while the administration completed a review of the federal oil and gas program. 

The department was expected to release the results of that review by “early summer” but has not yet done so, and the new statement says that it “continues to review the programs’ noted shortcomings, including completing a report.”

Meanwhile, in response to a lawsuit from several Republican-led states, a federal judge temporarily halted the moratorium — which did not impact existing leases or permits — in June.  

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