Oil rigs stand in the Loco Hills field on U.S. Highway 82 in Eddy County near Artesia, N.M., one of the most active regions of the Permian Basin. President Joe Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Trump administration policies on energy and the environment and address climate change. (AP Photo/Jeri Clausing, File)

Oil rigs stand in the Loco Hills field on U.S. Highway 82 in Eddy County near Artesia, N.M., one of the most active regions of the Permian Basin. President Joe Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Trump administration policies on energy and the environment and address climate change. (AP Photo/Jeri Clausing, File)

Biden to pause oil drilling on public lands

Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands.

By MATTHEW DALY

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Trump administration policies on energy and the environment and address climate change.

Two people with knowledge of Biden’s plans outlined the proposed moratorium, which will be announced Wednesday. They asked not to be identified because the plan has not been made been public; some details remain in flux.

The move follows a 60-day suspension of new drilling permits for U.S. lands and waters announced last week and follows Biden’s campaign pledge to halt new drilling on federal lands and end the leasing of publicly owned energy reserves as part of his plan to address climate change. The moratorium is intended to allow time for officials to review the impact of oil and gas drilling on the environment and climate.

Environmental groups hailed the expected moratorium as the kind of bold, urgent action needed to slow climate change.

“The fossil fuel industry has inflicted tremendous damage on the planet. The administration’s review, if done correctly, will show that filthy fracking and drilling must end for good, everywhere,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has pushed for the drilling pause.

Oil industry groups slammed the move, saying Biden had already eliminated thousands of oil and gas jobs by killing the Keystone XL oil pipeline on his first day in office.

“This is just the start. It will get worse,” said Brook Simmons, president of the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma. “Meanwhile, the laws of physics, chemistry and supply and demand remain in effect. Oil and natural gas prices are going up, and so will home heating bills, consumer prices and fuel costs.”

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas drillers in Western states, said the expected executive order is intended to delay drilling on federal lands to the point where it is no longer viable.

“The environmental left is leading the agenda at the White House when it comes to energy and environment issues,” she said, noting that the moratorium would be felt most acutely in Western states such as Utah, Wyoming and North Dakota. Biden lost all three states to former President Donald Trump.

The drilling moratorium is among several climate-related actions Biden will announce Wednesday. He also is likely to direct officials to conserve 30% of the country’s lands and ocean waters in the next 10 years, initiate a series of regulatory actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and issue a memorandum that elevates climate change to a national security priority. He also is expected to direct all U.S. agencies to use science and evidence-based decision-making in federal rule-making and announce a U.S.-hosted climate leaders summit on Earth Day, April 22.

The conservation plan would set aside millions of acres for recreation, wildlife and climate efforts by 2030, part of Biden’s campaign pledge for a $2 trillion program to slow global warming.

Under Trump, federal agencies prioritized energy development and eased environmental rules to speed up drilling permits as part of the Republican’s goal to boost fossil fuel production. Trump consistently downplayed the dangers of climate change, which Biden, a Democrat, has made a top priority.

On his first day in office last Wednesday, Biden signed a series of executive orders that underscored his different approach — rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, revoking approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and telling agencies to immediately review dozens of Trump-era rules on science, the environment and public health.

A 60-day suspension order at the Interior Department did not limit existing oil and gas operations under valid leases, meaning activity would not come to a sudden halt on the millions of acres of lands in the West and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico where much drilling is concentrated. The moratorium also is unlikely to affect existing leases. Its effect could be further blunted by companies that stockpiled enough drilling permits in Trump’s final months to allow them to keep pumping oil and gas for years.

The pause in drilling is limited to federal lands and does not affect drilling on private lands, which is largely regulated by states.

Oil and gas extracted from public lands and waters account for about a quarter of annual U.S. production. Extracting and burning those fuels generates the equivalent of almost 550 million tons (500 million metric tons) of greenhouse gases annually, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a 2018 study.

Under Trump, Interior officials approved almost 1,400 permits on federal lands, primarily in Wyoming and New Mexico, over a three-month period that included the election, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. Those permits, which remain valid, will allow companies to continue drilling for years, potentially undercutting Biden’s climate agenda.

More in News

This photo shows a multi-vehicle carport following an early morning fire. (Courtesy Photo / Capital City Fire/Rescue)
Firefighters extinguish early morning carport fire

The fire marshal will investigate.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, contracting with Coastal Helicopters, works to reduce avalanche risk on Thane Road by setting off avalanches in a controlled fashion on Feb. 5, 2021.(Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Thane Road to close Saturday morning for avalanche hazard reduction

Thane Road will be closed for two hours Saturday morning to allow… Continue reading

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Friday, March 5

The most recent state and local numbers.

Police Car
Police calls for Sunday, March 7, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Thursday, March 4

The most recent state and local numbers.

Police Car
Police calls for Thursday, March 5, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This Sept. 2008 photo provided by the Center for Whale Research taken near Washington state’s San Juan Islands shows scientists looking for clues about the diet of the Pacific Northwest’s endangered orcas using a pool skimmer to collect the scales or other remains of salmon the whales had eaten. A long-term study published Wednesday, March 3, 2021, reaffirmed the importance of Chinook salmon to the whales even when they cruise the outer Pacific Coast, where the fish are harder to find. (Ken Balcomb / Center for Whale Research)
Study: Chinook salmon are key to Northwest orcas all year

That includes fish that spawn in California’s Sacramento River all the way to the Taku River.

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., listens during the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Some Republican senators labeled Haaland “radical” over her calls to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and address climate change, and said that could hurt rural America and major oil and gas-producing states. The label of Haaland as a “radical” by Republican lawmakers is getting pushback from Native Americans. (Jim Watson / Pool Photo)
Senate energy panel backs Haaland for interior secretary

Murkowski was the lone Republican to support Haaland.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Wednesday, March 3

The most recent state and local numbers.

Most Read