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Biden administration announces it will restart onshore oil and gas lease sales with higher royalty rate


The Department of the Interior announced Friday that it plans to resume sales of onshore oil and gas leases on federal lands, with a higher royalty rate for companies to pay to the federal government.

The Bureau of Land Management will issue sale notices for upcoming oil and gas projects on Monday.

The Biden administration had previously planned to hold the lease sale, but halted it after a judge blocked the administration from using a metric to quantify the economic damage caused by the climate crisis, such as the rise sea ​​level, more destructive hurricanes, extreme wildfire and flood seasons. The Biden administration appealed that decision and argued that it required a pause in all of the many projects in which the government had used that particular analysis.

The increase in the royalty rate comes after the Home Office released a controversial report last November recommending that rates be increased for a better return for taxpayers. The newly increased royalty rate is 18.75%, down from 12.5%. This is the first time the federal government has increased what companies pay to drill oil and gas on public land.

“For too long, federal oil and gas leasing programs have prioritized the needs of the extractive industries above local communities, the natural environment, the impact on our air and water, the needs tribal nations and, additionally, other uses of our shared public lands,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement, adding that the department would “begin to reset how and what we view as the ‘highest and best use of American resources’.

The office will offer approximately 173 parcels on approximately 144,000 acres of federal land, which Interior says represents an 80% reduction from the area originally considered for lease. Interior said it reduced the amount of land offered after a “rigorous environmental review” and engagement with indigenous tribes and local communities.

The department also said it would focus on offering new leases near existing oil and gas infrastructure and would continue to disclose greenhouse gas emissions that result from oil and gas drilling on the land. federal.

Environmental groups blasted the move, saying the Biden administration was ignoring its promises on the climate crisis.

“The Biden administration’s assertion that it must hold these lease sales is pure fiction and a reckless failure of climate leadership,” Randi Spivak, director of public lands at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “These so-called reforms come 20 years too late and will only continue to fuel the climate emergency. These lease sales should be suspended and federal climate-destroying fossil fuel programs should end. »

Natasha Léger, executive director of Citizens for a Healthy Community, said restarting lease sales would only lead to more climate disasters.

“The West is drying up and burning. Between extreme drought, the narrowing of the Colorado River and now urban fires in the winter, how much death, destruction and devastation do we still have to see before this administration take action?” said Léger. “It’s time for climate leadership and to stop leasing our public lands for oil and gas development. collision towards habitability.

Varshini Prakash, executive director of Sunrise Movement, said “it’s never a good sign when the president announces something at 5 p.m. on Fridays.”

“That’s why young people completely doubt the political process,” Prakash said in a statement. “If Biden wants to fix voter turnout in 2022, he should actually deliver on the promises he made, not stray further from them.”

A representative of the American Petroleum Institute, a powerful oil lobby, welcomed the action in a statement, but said it did not go far enough to open the country’s federal territory to drilling.

“In an era of high energy costs, these changes to long-standing fair and reasonable lease terms may further discourage oil and natural gas investments on federal lands,” Frank Macchiarola said. , senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs at the institute. “We look forward to seeing additional details of the lease proposal.”

This story has been updated with additional information.


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