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Department of Interior Holds Federal Leasing Program Hearing

Tim TarpleyAnalysis by Energy Workforce SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland affirmed the importance of oil and gas development on federal lands during opening remarks at a virtual hearing last week to consider the federal oil and gas leasing program. The hearing came at the end of a 60-day pause on new permits. The moratorium on new leases remains in place as Interior reviews the program. The hearing was the first public event in that review process.

During her remarks, Sec. Haaland said she believes oil and gas will have a significant role in the energy mix for decades to come. She also said there had been a rush to develop resources without proper outreach to local communities or complete analysis of environmental impacts.     

Speaking after Sec. Haaland, Laura Daniel-Davis, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Land and Minerals Management said the current pause does not affect leases that were already granted or leases the government holds in trust.

Representatives from the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management presented information on oil and gas production and revenues, as well as timelines, regulations, statutory authorities related to oil and gas development and existing leases and permits. 

The hearing included short presentations of prepared remarks from industry, environmental experts, labor officials and equity officials, as well as academics. Each provided a different perspective on the leasing program.  

DOI closed the meeting by pledging to work closer with indigenous peoples on the leasing program and to follow the UN principles on indigenous people. Additionally, DOI officials said they would ensure changes to the leasing program align with the Biden Administration’s climate goals. That includes the long-term effort to meet the targets established in the Paris Climate Agreement.  

Missing from the hearing were the perspectives of officials from states and localities most affected by the federal leasing moratorium. The New Mexico governor, both of the state’s U.S. senators, and an array of local officials voiced concerns in other venues.

Additionally, the DOI provided little opportunity to discuss carbon reductions from using natural gas for power generation, or the national security and environmental benefits of exporting US-produced natural gas.  

The Council looks forward to continuing to work with Interior and stakeholders on this important issue to ensure these resources continue to be accessible.

For more information on the Council’s advocacy efforts or to get involved, contact SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley

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