Biden's Leasing Halt Faces Rising Resistance

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The Biden administration's pause on federal oil and natural gas leasing is facing a rising tide of resistance from western states and oil companies, and those battle lines were on clear display during a hearing of the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday. Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, charged that a leasing moratorium "of any length" harms operators, a point echoed by other state and local officials and industry representatives. Administration officials countered that federal land management shouldn't be dominated by oil and gas concerns. At the heart of the controversy is an indefinite halt to new oil and gas lease sales in federal areas by US President Joe Biden's Department of the Interior (OD Mar.12'21). The leasing pause has the biggest impact on activity in the Rocky Mountain region, the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska -- places where much of the territory is federally controlled. Summer Freeze Interior says the moratorium enables it to conduct a comprehensive review of whether the leasing program serves the public interest. That review is expected to be completed by "early this summer," said Nada Wolff Culver, a policy official with Interior's Bureau of Land Management. "Too often, the extraction of resources has been rushed at the expense of people, wildlife, and other uses," she told the hearing. The BLM is also reviewing ways it can increase oil and gas royalty rates and rental payments owed by leaseholders, she added. Onshore federal lease sales were canceled for the first quarter of 2021 and the second-quarter round will also be scrapped, Interior has confirmed.

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