Energy & Environment

Interior moves forward on planning for oil and gas leases after court reinstates climate tool

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The Interior Department said Friday that it can move forward with planning for oil and gas leasing on federal lands after previous delays stemming from a court move blocking a climate accounting tool. 

Previously, the department had said there would be delays in “permitting and leasing for the oil and gas programs” after a lower court barred the Biden administration from using a tool allowing it to calculate the climate costs of such actions. 

But an appeals court this week halted that decision

Interior spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said in an emailed statement on Friday that the department now “continues its planning for responsible oil and gas development on America’s public lands and waters,” in light of the new ruling.

Schwartz declined further comment on leasing, but she clarified that permitting had never been halted, saying the court ruling has impacted fewer than 20 permits. 

The American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas lobbying group, cheered the announcement, but also called for additional action in a statement. 

“At a time when the administration and allies around the world are calling for more American energy, we welcome the Department of the Interior’s announcement today and urge the administration to hold onshore lease sales under the Mineral Leasing Act with sufficient acreage and fair terms,” said American Petroleum Institute senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs Frank Macchiarola.

“We also call on the administration to accelerate the long delayed five-year program for leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf,” he added, referring to an offshore drilling plan. 

The latest news comes after an appeals court this week halted a lower court injunction that had prevented the Biden administration from using values known as the “social costs of greenhouse gases.”

The administration uses these “social costs” in analyses behind regulations and permitting to help it figure out an action’s climate consequences, and the costs or benefits that those consequences will have on society. 

Following the initial ruling blocking it from using the cost values it had imposed, the federal government said that this would upend dozens of regulations and environmental reviews.

Leasing is just one step in a process that companies need to take to extract oil and gas from federal lands and waters, so changes in leasing policy are not expected to have significant short-term impacts on fuel availability. 

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