Biden’s inner circle debates the future of foreign drilling

WASHINGTON – Top aides to President Biden are weighing whether to ban new oil and gas drilling activities off the coasts of the United States, a move that would cheer climate activists but could leaves the administration vulnerable to Republican accusations that it is exacerbating the energy crisis as gas prices soar.

By law, the Interior Department is required to publish plans to lease new oil and gas in federal waters every five years. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has promised Congress that a draft of the Biden plan will be available by June 30.

With the administration acutely aware that inflation and high pump prices are weighing on voters ahead of the November midterm elections, the White House is shaping the plan, two administration officials said.

President Biden insiders, including chief of staff Ron Klain and longtime adviser Steve Ricchetti, are closely involved in the discussion about whether and where drilling should be allowed, officials say on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the consideration.

“The Biden administration is in a difficult place,” said Sara Rollet Gosman, a professor of energy and environmental law at the University of Arkansas. “If the Home Office decides to phase out rental sales abroad or offer only a few sales, it has done the right thing in terms of climate. But it also provides ammunition for fossil fuel companies to argue that President Biden doesn’t care about high gas prices.”

Some people familiar with the administration’s decision-making said it was likely to halt new drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the face of widespread bipartisan opposition from members of Congress. associations and leaders from coastal countries. The eastern Gulf of Mexico has been closed for drilling since 1995.

It is still being considered whether to continue to allow rentals in parts of the Arctic Ocean as well as the western and central Gulf of Mexico.

As a candidate, Mr. Biden pledged to end new drilling on public lands and federal waters. Environmental activists have argued that offshore drilling has no place in a clean energy future. They are pressuring the administration to ban drilling on the entire outer continental shelf to reduce the US contribution to climate change.

Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, an environmental advocacy organization, said: “We made it very clear in our conversation with Interior that we expect the president to uphold his campaign pledges. about terminating the new lease”.

The International Energy Agency says countries must stop approving new coal mines, or oil and gas fields, to limit global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-historic levels. Karma. That is the threshold beyond which the likelihood of catastrophic heatwaves, droughts, floods, and mass extinctions increases dramatically. The Earth has warmed by an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution.

Tré Easton, a Democratic strategist, said if Mr. Biden introduces new drilling leases, he risks alienating climate-conscious voters, whom Democrats need to engage with. midterm elections this fall.

“Joe Biden broke a major campaign promise and renewed the new lease won’t affect energy prices in this country,” he said. “It’s a distraction and I really hope the White House recognizes it as such.”

Areas available for lease to blueprints will be auctioned through 2027. It could take years from lease sale to gas or oil production from offshore drilling.

However, the fossil fuel industry and Republicans are blaming the record-high gas prices on the Biden administration, alleging that it slows fossil fuel production.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden called on Congress federal gas tax pause to give the driver some relief. The government has also release strategic petroleum reservesS, suspending summer sales ban gasoline blends with higher ethanol content and urged US oil producers to ramp up production.

Republicans say the administration is trying to do it both ways.

“The administration cannot pretend to support oil and gas production while doing everything in their power to slow and prevent production expansion on public land,” said Sen. Wyoming, said at a recent hearing where he and others toasted Ms. Haaland over the five-year plan.

The draft five-year plan for the National Continental Shelf Leasing Program is expected to include a number of options, including a “no action alternative” – that is, not providing any any new rental sales that have occurred in the past.

Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, declined to comment on internal discussions and said no decision had been made yet.

“The ministry is working hard to develop a five-year plan. I don’t have time updates,” said Ms. Schwartz.

At one stage, the Biden administration considered limiting new drilling in the central and western Gulf of Mexico, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Erik Milito, president of the National Oceanic Industry Association, which represents offshore energy companies, said that would be bad for consumers. New leases in the Gulf of Mexico could mean an extra 2.4 million barrels of crude a day – an amount that “could have a global impact on the market,” he said.

Last month, the Biden administration canceled a lease in federal waters off Alaska’s Cook Inlet, citing the industry’s lack of interest.

The Cook Inlet Basin, once Alaska’s main source of oil, is now largely a source of natural gas for local utilities and large-scale projects, energy experts say. rare in recent years. However, the industry still wants the Arctic waters to be available for lease in the future.

After the Department of the Interior’s Oceans Administration releases the five-year plan, it will be put out for public comment prior to completion. Past presidents have used the plan to alternately open the door to unchecked development or close it to prevent new drilling.

President Obama drilling is forbidden in parts of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas of the Arctic Ocean, and then invoked a confusing provision of the 1953 law, Law on Lands Beyond the Continental Shelfas well as a ban on drilling along areas along the Atlantic coast.

President Trump has tried to open all of the coastal waters of the United States to oil and gas drilling, including areas protected by the Obama administration.

But towards the end of his administration and under intense pressure from Florida Republicans who were concerned the drilling would affect tourism, Mr. Trump signed an executive order banning drilling for 10 years off the coast of the US. the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Mr. Trump’s broader plan was never finalized. Haaland told lawmakers that the Trump administration stopped work under the five-year plan in 2018 and that “various conflict litigation” contributed to the delay, she said.

Offshore oil and gas leasing plans have landed at the center of the debate over the administration’s oil and gas decisions. Immediately after taking office, President Biden sign an executive order to halt the issuance of new leases – but a successful legal challenge from Republican states and the oil industry forced the administration to organize the sale of new leases.

The administration is appealing that ruling. At the same time, they are defending themselves in another Republican-led lawsuit that is seeking to prevent the government from considering the economic costs of climate change from drilling and other actions it claims. permission.

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