Biden plans to open more public land for digging

The Biden administration announced Friday that it will resume selling leases for oil and gas exploration on public lands, but will also raise federal royalties that companies must pay for exploration, which would be the first increase in those fees in more than a century.

The Interior Department said in a statement that it plans to open 145,000 acres of public land in nine states for oil and gas leases next week, the first new fossil fuel permits to be offered on public lands since President Biden took office.

The move comes as President Biden seeks to show voters that he is increasing domestic oil supply as prices rise in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But it also violates a signature campaign pledge Biden made as he sought to reassure climate activists that he would prioritize reducing fossil fuel use.

“And by the way, no more digging on federal land, period. Period, period, period,” Mr. Biden told voters in New Hampshire in February 2020.

Upon taking office, Mr. Biden issued an executive order calling for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing of public lands, which was to remain in place while the Department of the Interior issues a comprehensive report on the state of federal oil and gas exploration programs.

That report, released in November, recommended an overhaul of rents and royalty fees for onshore and offshore drilling. The report cited one estimate that the government lost up to $12.4 billion in revenue from drilling on federal lands from 2010 through 2019 because royalty rates had been frozen for a century.

When new public lands are opened for oil and gas permits, the Home Office will raise the royalty rates companies have to pay the federal government from 12.5 percent of their profits to 18.75 percent, an increase that could bring in billions of new dollars. Revenues.

“For far too long, federal oil and gas leasing programs have prioritized the needs of the extractive industries over local communities, the natural environment, the impact on air and water, the needs of tribal nations, on top of other uses,” said Home Secretary Deb Haaland. We consider it the highest and best use of Americans’ resources for the benefit of all present and future generations.”

The new lease sales represent the second major step the Biden administration has taken to open up public land and water for drilling. Late last year, the Department of the Interior offered up to 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for drilling leases, the largest sale since 2017. The sales Mr. Biden tried to force. Environmental activists have criticized the administration, saying the rental sales represent a rollback of Biden’s already stalled agenda on climate change.

“The Biden administration’s claim that these rental sales should be kept is sheer fantasy and a reckless failure of climate leadership,” said Randy Spivak, director of public lands for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is as if they ignore the horrors of firestorms, floods and severe droughts and accept climatic disasters as normal business.”

But this comes as part of a series of recent steps Biden has taken as he tries to allay voters’ anxiety about rising gasoline prices. This month he announced the largest-ever release of oil from the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, reached a deal to increase natural gas exports to Europe, and called on Congress to enact legislation to force oil companies to drill for their leases.

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