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Climate campaigners slam Biden’s oil drilling review as as ‘shocking capitulation’ to industry

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An oil well works at sunrise Aug. 25, 2021, in Watford City, North Dakota. (File photo by AP)

Climate campaigners and other progressive groups have criticized the Biden administration’s recommendations for oil and gas leasing on public lands, saying the proposed measures are too weak and a “shocking capitulation” to the fossil fuel industry.

The US Interior Department released its long-awaited report on Friday, putting forward proposals that will limit areas available for oil and gas companies to drill on public land and water, but stopped short of recommending an end to leasing on public lands.

The report completes a review ordered in January by President Biden, who ordered a pause on federal oil and gas lease sales in his first days in office, citing worries about climate change.

The Biden administration had launched the review earlier this year in what had widely been seen as a step toward delivering on his campaign promise to end new fossil fuel drilling on public lands.

"Releasing this completely inadequate report over a long holiday weekend is a shameful attempt to hide the fact that President Biden has no intention of fulfilling his promise to stop oil and gas drilling on our public lands," said Food & Water Watch policy director Mitch Jones in a statement.

The administration defended the new report’s recommendations. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement the proposals will mitigate worsening climate change impacts “while staying steadfast in the pursuit of environmental justice.″

The Interior report called for new rules to boost royalty rates, bonding rates, and other fees for producers. The recommendations drew rebukes from the oil industry and the environmentalists alike. 

"A minor increase in the royalties paid by climate polluters will have zero impact on combating the climate crisis," Jones asserted, "and will in effect make the federal government more dependent on fossil fuels as a source of revenue."

"This shocking capitulation to the needs of corporate polluters is a clear sign that, when it comes to climate action, the White House does not actually mean what it says," he continued.

Randi Spivak of the environmental group Center of Biological Diversity objected to the recommendations as too weak to address the climate emergency.

"These trivial changes are nearly meaningless in the midst of this climate emergency, and they break Biden's campaign promise to stop new oil and gas leasing on public lands," said Spivak, CBD's public lands director.

“Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” she added.

The oil industry censured the proposed increase in the costs of energy development in the United States. The American Petroleum Institute said in a statement that the Interior Department was proposing to "increase costs on American energy development with no clear roadmap for the future of federal leasing."

The Interior Department had attempted to suspend oil and gas leasing during the review but was forced to move ahead with auctions after several states filed lawsuits with federal courts. Last week, 80 million acres were auctioned off in the Gulf of Mexico after a federal judge ruled in June that Biden could not suspend new leases.

Despite a declaration of a climate “code red,” Biden's administration has so far approved fossil fuel drilling permits on public and tribal lands at a rate much faster rate than his two immediate predecessors, according to a new Associated Press analysis.


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