Senate Energy Committee Grills Haaland Over Delayed Review of Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Senate Energy Committee Grills Haaland Over Delayed Review of Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Program

July 27, 2021

Today, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland testified in front of the Senate Energy Committee, where she faced immense frustration from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on the status of Interior’s review under the Biden administration’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases on public lands and waters.

The highly anticipated review by the Interior Department on the federal oil and gas leasing program Haaland previously said was to be completely by “early summer.” Today, she told Senators that the review is undergoing final internal review and should be released “very soon.”

Even democratic lawmakers who supported the pause voiced their exasperation, The Hill reports:

“While I’ve supported administration’s desire to pause lease sales to make sure the American people are getting fair returns for our shared resources, we are now well now into the early summer timeline when we were told the review would be completed,” [Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joe] Manchin (D-WV) said during a Tuesday hearing on the Interior Department’s fiscal 2022 budget request.

“We need a plan to move forward for responsible oil and gas leasing both onshore and offshore,” he added.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) who was one of four GOP senators to confirm Haaland pressed the secretary on the review.

“I’m not going to ask you when you think it’s coming. I hope you can sense the frustration in anticipating this and wondering when we will be able to expect you’ll be in compliance with the judge’s order,” she said, referencing a June injunction against the pause.

Louisiana-based U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty issued the order back in June that temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s pause on new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters. The preliminary injunction from Judge Doughty follows lawsuits over the leasing pause in 13 states.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, in a Denver Post guest column last week said, “Hardworking oil and natural gas workers in Colorado and across the country deserve to know when lease sales will resume and when the Interior Department’s report will be released. The ongoing delay is creating a cloud of uncertainty over their jobs and the communities that rely on revenues from responsible energy development.”

The American people deserve answers. This country has faced immense uncertainty over the past year, the Biden administration should give the people the answers that were promised in early summer. For some, their livelihoods and communities’ livelihoods are on the line.