The Biden administration proposes federal drilling fees increase

Bryan Dijkhuizen

According to the Department of the Interior's long-awaited study of oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters, which was issued on Friday, an increase in leasing costs should be implemented, considering environmental concerns in leasing decisions.

Although it does not advocate a stop to new oil and gas leasing, the study does not address climate change challenges and recommends that President Joe Biden keep a commitment he made during his campaign.

According to Interior, the federal oil and gas program fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before accounting for the climate-related costs that taxpayers must bear.

Biden commissioned the report last January, which outlines a series of primarily fiscal reforms for the federal oil and gas program. Environmental organizations voiced their dissatisfaction with the study and demanded that more immediate action solve the climate catastrophe.

"We urge the Biden administration to build on this report by phasing out new oil and gas leasing altogether," said Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club's Lands Protection Program, "and we call on Congress to include these reforms in the final Build Back Better Act to ensure that our public lands are part of the climate solution, instead of enriching oil company CEOs at the public's expense."

The news comes when the Biden administration has come under fire from some environmentalists for pressing through with plans to reopen millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for drilling auctions in the coming months.

The auction is at odds with President Biden's climate strategy.

The President has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, and environmental organizations have warned that it might put the United States' climate ambitions back years.

In its initial days in office, the government attempted to halt new oil and gas exploration. With Biden's January directive, the Interior Department was instructed to thoroughly review current programs relating to fossil fuel production while new leases were temporarily halted.

An appeal from a lawsuit filed in March on behalf of 13 states resulted in a verdict that overturned Biden's decision to halt. The administration is appealing the ruling.

"Congress needs to end wasteful subsidies and advance leasing reform bills while that's happening because every American sees climate change all around them, and we all know that impermanent policy changes at the margins won't reduce emissions enough to protect our quality of life."

It was possible that the administration would choose to increase domestic oil production. Still, the White House was wary of the optics of the President and his aides pushing for more drilling at home so soon after the major United Nations climate summit COP26, where Vice President Biden promised that the United States would lead by example on clean energy initiatives, which took place in Paris in December.

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