President Biden’s Executive Order Puts Educational Budgets Across the Country At Risk
President Biden’s executive order issued Wednesday places a moratorium on new oil and natural gas lease sales on public lands and offshore waters, and puts at risk a key funding tool for state educational programs, from K-12 to universities.
During a media call hosted by the American Petroleum Institute, multiple oil and gas trade association representatives spoke on the impacts a ban on federal leasing will have on education funding. This follows a recent study by the University of Wyoming which shows a ban on federal leasing would cause state and school districts to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, with Native American communities being disproportionately affected.
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board notes the impacts will not only affect educational systems, but due to the checkerboard pattern of state, private and federal lands, production would be slashed. Along with the income revenue losses resulting from the ban, this plan will lead to detrimental losses for communities across the country.
Land of Dis-Enchantment
One of the states that would be most severely impacted by the federal leasing moratorium is New Mexico. During the call, Jessica Sanders, New Mexico’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and President of the New Mexico Science Teachers Association, spoke on the importance of the oil and natural gas industry in the state:
“Oil and gas in New Mexico fund $1.37 billion for education. That money funds teacher jobs, curriculum, and everything related to education in my state. New Mexico’s children are the future, and without vital funding from New Mexico’s oil and gas industry our students will not have access to the tools and resources they need to enter the workforce.”
New Mexico’s General Fund has received record revenues thanks to the industry’s success in the state. It is this success that makes their potential losses so staggering. According to the University of Wyoming’s study, New Mexico stands to lose nearly 1.2 billion dollars in the next four years.
The impact would be catastrophic, because as Jessica Sanders put it, “oil and gas matters to New Mexico, but it is essential for the education of New Mexico’s children.”
Worries Out West
According to Pete Obermueller, President of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, last year, the oil and natural gas industry contributed over $1.6 billion in annual revenue to the state of Wyoming. This includes $740 million for K-12 education as well as $30 million for higher education. Not only that, but $132 million was contributed to infrastructure projects, and $94 million to the state’s counties.
The University of Wyoming goes further, estimating a “a leasing moratorium reduces annual oil and gas tax revenues by $417 million in 2025 and $20.1 billion” over the next 20 years.
Wyoming State Superintendent Jillian Balow said in a statement that she was “taken aback” by these actions that “will defund schools”:
“And on the heels of the worst economic year we’ve all experienced in modern history, it is unconscionable that Acting Interior Secretary de la Vega would now do this to our kids. I plan to call my counterparts in these most affected states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota, Montana, California, and Alaska to discuss advocacy with the Acting Secretary and anticipated Interior Secretary to end the moratorium.”
A Bleak Future
The ban on oil and natural gas leasing on federal lands and waters is setting states up for failure. Not only does it eliminate opportunities for education, but its repercussions will be felt across people’s lives in these states as state and local funding begins to whittle down. By eliminating the future of the oil and natural industry, the Biden Administration is kneecapping the future of these communities.