Frustration builds as Biden administration blows deadline on offshore drilling program

The Interior Department mentioned Thursday that it’s going to suggest an offshore drilling program too late to switch the earlier model earlier than it expires, irritating power advocates who accused the administration of dragging its ft on home fossil gasoline manufacturing.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland mentioned the proposed five-year plan could be issued by June 30, the expiration date for the present 2017-22 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

Her announcement means the program is assured to lapse and not using a successor in place, which critics described as unprecedented.

“Interior has had 16 months to fulfill its statutory obligation to develop and maintain an offshore oil and gas leasing program and it has failed. No other administration has failed in this way,” mentioned National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito.

Ms. Haaland cited the Trump administration’s lack of progress on the plan and conflicting litigation, saying “there has been a lot to do to catch up.”

She was pressed at Thursday’s listening to earlier than the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about when the following offshore power sale could be held, however she declined to take a position.

“I don’t think there is an actual deadline,” Ms. Haaland mentioned.

She promised to maintain the committee posted on the division’s progress, however her assurances did little to alleviate the concerns of Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican.

“That’s the concern, actually, that all of us have, is that there’s actually no deadline, that the proposal to talk about it is coming on the date it should be done, and that this is going to then stretch out for the next two or three years of talking about it,” Mr. Lankford mentioned. “So we’re trying to figure out when’s the deadline to actually start leasing.”

Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beaudreau blamed the delay on the Trump administration, saying that it accomplished solely step one of the three-step course of by the tip of President Trump’s time period in January 2021.

“The Trump administration did the first step in 2018 and then they dropped the process, largely because their energy dominance rhetoric caused a lot of alarm, caused a lot of pushback,” Mr. Beaudreau advised the committee. “It is appropriate for us to take a step and be deliberate as we think about potential future leasing described in the five-year program.”

Sen. Joe Manchin III, the West Virginia Democrat who’s chairman of the power committee, raised considerations in regards to the division’s assertion that the proposed program “is not a decision to issue specific leases or to authorize any drilling or development.”

The launch of the proposed program and environmental influence assertion triggers a course of that takes from six months to a year to finish, beginning with a 90-day remark interval.

Those feedback are used to develop and publish the ultimate proposed program, prompting a 60-day congressional overview interval, after which the plan could also be adopted.

“What that statement says is by the end of June we will take step number two. And it’s just step number two in a three-step process,” Mr. Beaudreau advised the chairman. “No decisions about leasing will be made until step number three. That’s all that says.”

The looming expiration of the offshore program comes with power leasing gross sales on federal lands and waters at a standstill underneath the Biden administration.

Mr. Manchin started the listening to on the division’s $18 billion price range request for fiscal 2023 by prodding Ms. Haaland to take motion on oil and pure gasoline leasing.

The Biden administration introduced in early 2021 a “pause” to overview the federal program, however Mr. Manchin mentioned “it has become crystal clear that the ‘pause’ is in fact a ‘ban.’”

“In July, while you were here during last year’s budget hearing, I made clear that the time for a pause had come and gone,” he mentioned in his ready remarks. “But almost a year and a half into the administration, and as the world begs for North American oil and gas, we still have no new leases.”

He famous that the administration final week canceled three oil-and-gas leasing gross sales, two within the Gulf of Mexico and one in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

American Petroleum Institute senior vp Frank Macchiarola mentioned the announcement means Interior is “significantly behind in this multi-year process and will release a proposed program by June 30 — the day they should be finalizing it.”

“This is one more example of the disconnect between the administration’s political rhetoric and policy reality,” Mr. Macchiarola mentioned. “As energy prices and geopolitical volatility continue to rise, we urge the administration to end the continued mixed signals on energy policy and remove regulatory hurdles that are hindering American producers’ ability to increase supply and meet the growing energy demand.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council mentioned that whereas issuing a five-year offshore leasing program is required by regulation, “that doesn’t necessarily mean the secretary of interior has to propose new leases.”

“The next five-year plan is a huge opportunity for the Biden administration to take major climate action with long-term consequences,” mentioned council ocean advocate Valerie Cleland. “No new offshore leasing would mean we aren’t locking ourselves into decades of more fossil fuel use and the impacts to communities that come along with that.”

Mr. Biden vowed through the 2020 presidential marketing campaign to ban new drilling on federal lands and waters, citing the necessity to transition from fossil fuels within the title of combating local weather change.

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