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The Bureau of Land Management will begin issuing final environmental assessments and sale notices on Monday for future oil and gas projects and will offer for lease “approximately 173 parcels on roughly 144,000 acres, an 80 percent reduction from the acreage originally nominated,” BLM stated.
The move comes as President Biden faces gasoline price hikes and soaring inflation, each of which could prove politically catastrophic. Biden had said during the campaign that he wanted to end such leases and put a moratorium on them the first day of his presidency.
The administration sought to emphasize that it was trying to reopen drilling responsibly.
“How we manage our public lands and waters says everything about what we value as a nation,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “For too long, the federal oil and gas leasing programs have prioritized the wants of extractive industries above local communities, the natural environment, the impact on our air and water, the needs of Tribal Nations, and, moreover, other uses of our shared public lands.”
The department stated that the Bureau of Land Management “assessed potentially available and eligible acreage” in the states of Alabama, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.
Within his first week in office, Biden signed an executive order to temporarily suspend new oil and gas leases on public lands and offshore waters for drilling and fracking.
In a statement to Fox News regarding the decision, the American Petroleum Institute expressed concern over whether the move will add “new barriers to increasing energy production.”
“U.S. energy resources are the envy of the world and a long-term strategic asset that strengthens our national security and fuels our economy,” said Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy, economics, and regulatory affairs for API. “We are pleased to see the Interior Department finally announce a restart to the long-delayed onshore leasing program required under the law, but we are concerned that this action adds new barriers to increasing energy production, including removing some of the most significant parcels.”
“At a time of high energy costs, these changes to long-standing fair and reasonable lease terms may further discourage oil and natural gas investment on federal lands,” Macchiarola added. “We look forward to seeing the additional details of the leasing proposal.”
Fox News’ Audrey Conklin and Tyler Kendall contributed to this report.