Three Questions for Interior Secretary Haaland Before Her Latest Colorado Visit
When Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited Colorado last July, energy and environmental issues were a key topic of conversation. As Energy In Depth noted at the time, the Department of Interior was then still reviewing the federal oil and natural gas leasing program.
On her return visit today, Sec. Haaland plans to meet with top members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, and Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Joe Neguse, and discuss the bipartisan infrastructure law that was passed last year and science and research priorities.
While the event will most likely have a heavy focus on renewables, there are several major oil and natural gas issues that will have an impact on Colorado.
Here are some questions for Sec. Haaland on her second Colorado visit.
When Will Federal Leasing Sales Resume in Colorado?
In 2021, the Biden administration enacted an illegal ban on oil and natural gas leasing on federal lands while the Department of Interior reviewed the program, a process that stretched on for months. During Sec. Haaland’s previous visit to Colorado, she noted the department’s review of the leasing program would still come out in “early summer.” E&E News reported at the time:
“Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said today that release of the Biden administration’s federal oil and gas review is imminent. ‘The review is coming very, very soon. We promised early summer,” Haaland said, then echoed herself: ‘It’s early summer!’” (emphasis added)
That report was finally released the day after Thanksgiving, but there is still widespread uncertainty around the program.
It has now been seven months since a federal judge issued that ruling on the illegal leasing ban and three months since Interior released its review of the program, but the department and the Bureau of Land Management have yet to announce when the next lease sale will be held in Colorado – or anywhere else onshore.
Sec. Haaland’s visit to Colorado would give the congressional delegation a chance to ask about the future of federal lands leasing in Colorado, but will they?
REGROW Act: Will There Be Acknowledgement of Industry Support of Well Remediation?
Addressing methane emissions from orphaned oil and natural gas wells is a major focus for regulators and industry, and Congress has allocated funds to assist with the process. Last month, the Denver Business Journal reported that $79 million in federal funding was coming to Colorado to remediate orphan oil and natural gas wells, as part of the inclusion of the REGROW Act in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed last year.
Industry sees the legislation as an important opportunity to partner with government to address this challenge. The Independent Petroleum Association of America supported the REGROW Act to assist state and industry efforts to plug and mitigate orphan wells. In a letter submitted to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June, IPAA wrote:
“In the United States, there are over 56,000 documented oil and natural gas wells that have been orphaned. Taking proactive steps to support the existing state orphan well remediation programs is the best path forward to address this important issue. This approach ensures that we effectively and efficiently utilize the expertise and experience the states have accumulated in their decades long work to resolve this issue.
However, Sec. Haaland has yet to discuss these new partnerships. Will that change during her visit?
Will There Be Support of Hydrogen?
The development of hydrogen is becoming a top priority in Colorado and across the west, and Sec. Haaland will be in Golden, home to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Colorado School of Mines, both of which are supporting hydrogen research.
The oil and natural gas industry is also focused on the responsible development of hydrogen. Hydrogen is a no-carbon technology that could repurpose existing natural gas infrastructure. Natural gas is also a key ingredient in the production of hydrogen.
Likewise, the Energy Department touted this week the inclusion of funding to support hydrogen development in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. This raises the question of what efforts Colorado’s congressional delegation can take to bring more hydrogen projects to Colorado.
Additionally, last summer, Sens. Bennet and Hickenlooper introduced legislation to promote the development of hydrogen. Will they tout their bill and this technology?
The west continues to be in the center of the energy and environmental conversation, and as energy prices and inflation continue to rise, Sec. Haaland’s visit will again highlight the key ways that Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry can be a part of the solution if given support from federal leaders.