US Interior: No Plans for Permanent Ban

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US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Wednesday told a congressional hearing that there is no plan to permanently ban new oil and natural gas drilling on federal land, but her agency will soon release a report that will assess the future of the federal oil and gas leasing program. The Biden administration paused the government's oil and gas leasing auctions on federal acres in January pending a review that is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. The move was part of a sweeping plan to rein in fossil fuel extraction and combat the effects of climate change. Last week, a federal judge in Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction to Louisiana and 12 other states that sued Democratic President Joe Biden and the Interior Department over the freeze on new drilling auctions (OD Jun.16'21). Republican and some Democratic lawmakers in oil-reliant states have raised concerns that the pause would lead to a permanent ban, depriving those states of revenue (OD May13'21). "I don't think there is a plan right now for a permanent ban but ... the review will come out early summer and we will assess the fossil fuel programs at that time," Haaland told a House natural resources subcommittee. She said oil and gas production "will continue well into the future" but said the administration wants "to make sure American taxpayers are getting a good return on their investment."

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