Photo: Joe Biden; Source: The White House

Biden halts federal oil and gas permitting in climate push

The Biden administration has opted to temporarily suspend oil and gas leasing and permitting on federal lands and waters while it evaluates the legal and policy implications of the program.

This is according to a Department of Interior memo cited in a Reuters article on Thursday. The move is a first step in delivering on President Biden’s campaign promise to ban all new federal drilling permits – part of his wider agenda to combat global climate change.

The media outlet claims that the order was welcomed by environmentalists and derided by the oil and gas industry, whose largest onshore drilling companies have stockpiled permits in anticipation of a change in federal policy.

U.S. federal lands and waters account for close to 25 per cent of the nation’s crude oil output, making them a big contributor to energy supply but also the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump attempted to maximise production of oil, gas, and coal on federal acreage and routinely downplayed threats from global warming.

In the order, dated 20 January, Biden’s Acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega suspended the authority of agency offices to issue fossil fuel authorizations, revise land management plans, approve ground-disturbing activities, and more.

During the pause, activities may be approved by certain agency officials in Washington. It is worth noting that the order does not limit existing operations.

Oil and gas industry trade groups such as the American Petroleum Institute and Western Energy Alliance swiftly issued statements condemning the pause.

With this move, the administration is leading us toward more reliance on foreign energy from countries with lower environmental standards and risks to hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in government revenue for education and conservation programs“, API President Mike Sommers said.

As for related news, President Biden announced that the U.S.will return to the international Paris Agreement to fight climate change.

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He also made an order to revoke a vital permit for TC Energy’s Keystone XL oil pipeline project from Canada and put a moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that Trump’s administration had recently opened to development.