Despite lofty promises on environmental goals, President Biden has outpaced even President Trump in issuing new drilling permits on public land.
Biden in his first week in office had issued an executive order halting new leases for oil and gas drilling. But that order was struck down by U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Louisiana, and the administration has said its hands were tied and it had to continue issuing the leases.
Biden issued 3,557 permits for oil and gas drilling in his first year in office, 900 more than Trump in his first year, according to federal data compiled by the Center for Biological Diversity.
‘Biden’s runaway drilling approvals are a spectacular failure of climate leadership,’ said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Taylor McKinnon in a statement. ‘Avoiding catastrophic climate change requires ending new fossil fuel extraction, but Biden is racing in the opposite direction.’
Legal challenges have ‘made it impossible for us to stop many of these leases,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a daily briefing on Thursday.
Permits are typically issued for leases that have already been sold, mostly under previous administrations.
‘We have an entirely different policy from the Trump administration on addressing … the climate crisis,’ Psaki added.
But climate activists have said that the Biden administration could have found a way to slow drilling, either through litigation or through reopening the environmental review that normally takes place during the leasing process.
‘Their hands are not tied,’ McKinnon told DailyMail.com in response to Psaki’s remarks.
Biden issued 3,557 permits for oil and gas drilling in its first year in office, 900 more than Trump, according to federal data compiled by the Center for Biological Diversity
Cleanup crew mops up oil in the Talbert Marsh in California, which came from an offshore oil platform
‘We’ve gone to great lengths to research how the government can do this under existing laws without Congress. It’s disappointing to hear an administration that purports to be leading on climate dismiss that possibility rather than researching how they can do it.’
Nearly 2,000 of the permits were administered by New Mexico’s Bureau of Land Management Office. Meanwhile 843 were given to Wyoming, 285 to Montana and 171 to Utah. The Biden administration approved 187 permits for California, more than double the 71 Trump approved in the state in his first year.
Asked about the permits, Department of Interior spokesperson Tyler Cherry told DailyMail.com: ‘Permit reviews are required by law.’
‘Interior is conducting a more comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas impacts from potential oil and gas lease sales than ever before,’ he said. Cherry added that the department is working on a number of reforms in fossil fuel leasing, including eliminating the preferential financial treatment given to fossil fuel companies by the Trump administration and tightening oil and gas safety standards.
Rising gas prices, inflation and tensions with Russia, meanwhile, clash with Biden’s rhetoric on climate change. In November at the COP26 Summit, Biden called climate change an ‘existential threat to human existence.’
He has often used climate change to push for his Build Back Better plan, which passed the House and stalled in the Senate, and contains $550 billion for clean energy and climate initiatives. The bill included $320 billion in tax incentives for producers and purchasers of wind, solar and nuclear power, intended to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels.
Since 2018, the U.S. has been the top crude oil producer in the world. But with prices rising at the pump, Biden has not only increased production at home but called on OPEC+ nations to produce more fuel. And as Russia threatens to invade Ukraine and cuts back on its gas exports to Europe, the U.S. has become the number one exporter of natural gas in the world.
The Center for Biological Diversity, together with climate, indigenous and community groups wrote a petition to the Biden administration last week urging them to use executive authority to delay these permits.
Their petition cited a number of different laws that could be used to assert Biden’s authority to reassess the permits. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act requires the Department of Interior to ‘take into account the long-term needs of future generations’ in drilling permits.
They also cite the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) specify that the president and secretary of Interior must take into account public good in issuing permits.
The MLA stipulates that leases must contain provisions ‘for the protection of the interests of the United States . . . and for the safeguarding of the public welfare.’
The OCSLA charges the president with overseeing ‘expeditious and orderly development [of offshore oil and gas resources], subject to environmental safeguards, in a manner which is consistent with the maintenance of competition and other national needs.’