Mountain States

Welcome Back to Colorado, Sec. Haaland, Where Are Those Lease Sales?

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is back in Colorado today to talk about infrastructure investment with Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and Rep. Joe Neguse. This is Sec. Haaland’s second visit to Colorado this year to discuss infrastructure investment, while domestic energy production remains the proverbial gorilla in the room.

There are some key energy topics that Sec. Haaland should address while she’s visiting the Centennial State.

What Is Interior’s Position On Domestic Energy Production?

As energy prices have spiked following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has been calling on oil and gas companies to increase supply to bring down prices. Energy Sec. Jennifer Granholm, Press Secretary Jen Psaki, and other administration officials have made public statements urging industry to increase energy production.

Sec. Haaland, however, has not. In fact, the Interior Department has been noticeably missing in action on the issue of domestic production, though nearly a quarter of American oil production and an eighth of domestic natural gas production occurs on federal lands and waters.

The focus on infrastructure conveniently ignores the energy that is needed to build and use these new projects. Oil production in Colorado has dropped by 38.7 million barrels from its peak in 2019, falling more than 10 percent in both 2020 and 2021. To maintain production levels, industry needs to continue to develop new wells, a process that has been essentially halted by the administration’s leasing ban.

If the administration believes that American energy companies should produce more oil and gas, what is the Interior Department doing to help make this happen?

When Will Lease Sales Be Held?

Since taking office in January 2021, the Biden administration has hamstrung western energy production through a moratorium on federal lands leasing. During her confirmation hearing last year, Haaland repeatedly told members of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee that the leasing ban was not a “permanent thing.” But the administration still has not held an onshore lease sale, even as soaring energy prices pinch family budgets.

EID asked this question before Haaland’s visits in February and last summer, but no answers have been forthcoming.

Last year Haaland said that the department’s review of the federal oil and gas leasing programs would be released “by early summer.” The department missed early summer 2021, but will we see a leasing report in 2022? Will there be lease sales this summer?

Why Aren’t We Using the Cleanest Molecules?

The infrastructure that Haaland is touting is important to future economic growth, but the focus on ways to move energy conveniently ignores what goes into the pipelines. Colorado produces some of the cleanest oil and gas in the world. Operators are held to strict environmental standards that have reduced methane emissions, cut venting and flaring, and dramatically lowered the emissions intensity of the energy produced.

Affordable energy can be produced more cleanly and efficiently here in the West than in many countries. Rather than looking for additional oil and gas production overseas, the administration should support domestic production.

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