On Anniversary of Federal Lands Court Ruling, Biden Administration Delaying Oil and Natural Gas Lease Sales … Again 

It has been a year to the day since a federal judge issued an injunction against the ban on oil and natural gas leasing on federal lands and ordered the Department of Interior to resume holding lease sales, and yet, no onshore lease sales have taken place.   

In fact, the department postponed (again) sales that were scheduled to take place this week in New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Colorado. As the Carlsbad Current Argus reports:  

“After months of intensified environmental and climate change analysis, the New Mexico lease sale was scheduled for June 16. But records show on June 6, the sale was delayed again to June 23.”  

Further, the Biden administration continues to appeal the that federal judge’s injunction with the Department of Justice asking, “a federal judge to OK its temporary ban on oil and gas drilling leases on public lands and offshore,” according to Law360 

The additional delay in holding lease sales comes as gasoline prices just hit a record high of $5 per gallon. At a time when the United States should be ramping up production to ease the pain at the pump for American drivers, it makes no sense that the federal government continues to obstruct greater output.  

Adding to this, the administration recently settled with several activist groups and has agreed to re-evaluate the existing National Environmental Policy Act reviews for significant acreage already leased across the Mountain West. That’s about a quarter of the so-called 9,000 leases the administration has said the industry is “sitting on” As the Wyoming Tribune Eagle explains: 

“None of the leases have been vacated, but their future is uncertain. The Department of the Interior now has to reevaluate and retroactively justify more than two dozen lease sales. If it decides it can’t, or its reasoning doesn’t satisfy the court, the sales could be reversed and any existing permits revoked.” 

In Wyoming, for instance, this includes about 2,000 leases sold between 2015 and 2017 – nearly all of the land leased under the Trump administration. That’s about a quarter of the so-called 9,000 leases the administration has said the industry is “sitting on” in Wyoming alone. There’s additional acreage in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Montana too – approximately 4 million acres from all of the states combined.  

Since taking office in 2021, the Biden administration has set the tone for undermining responsible oil and natural gas development in the United States, and despite claiming to “work like the devil” to bring down gasoline prices, administration officials and Democrats in Congress continue to push mixed messages on domestic energy development, as Energy In Depth recently noted.    

Two of the most recent occurrences of these mixed messages came from White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy who told MSNBC 

“Let me answer your question very directly: President Biden remains absolutely committed to not moving forward with additional drilling on public lands.” (emphasis added) 

And from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) who is proposing to increase taxes on oil and natural gas companies – an idea that attracted interest from the White House.  

Ironically, despite working to block increased production and threatening to increase taxes, Biden still criticized energy companies for not refining enough gasoline to meet increased demand.  

Thankfully, there are bipartisan voices outside of Washington, D.C. who are defending American energy security. In a recent hearing held by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) expressed the need for the federal government to work with industry leaders instead of undermining their needs to meet consumer demand:  

“My advice for Congress is that we did work with the oil and gas industry – very closely and our environmental stakeholders as well as constituents living in frontline communities. The problem is when you set these goals in motion and strategies and policies or regulatory work we do it in the absence of stakeholders and the actual industry who is critical to our success.”  

At the same hearing, Gov. Mark Gordon (R-Wyo.) confirmed how federal regulations are hurting production:   

“Increased regulation is an inhibitor to any kind of business. It will raise the price on fuel and production, making things more difficult to get things accomplished.”  

The solution to increased consumer demand and rising energy costs is to ramp up U.S. oil and natural gas production. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has yet again delayed the restart of federal lease sales even as drivers are paying record high prices for gasoline.  

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