Why is it that “balance” is one of those words that people use when they’re doing something undecidedly unbalanced? Such is the case with the president’s executive order banning oil and natural gas leasing on federal lands.
The fact sheet put out by the new administration led with it. President Biden is “upholding the commitment” to “restore balance”. But there’s been a balance on federal lands at least since the 1970s when Congress passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). The balance involves the multiple use of federal lands, which includes conservation as well as oil and natural gas and other productive uses. By banning leasing, President Biden has decidedly tipped the balance.
In the West, oil and natural gas resources are inextricably bound to federal public lands, and therefore, to the men and women of the industry who work there. Likewise, we are inextricably bound to the Department of the Interior, which oversees those public lands.
As such, we wish to work constructively with the department, and seek to find common ground whenever possible. But when the first action of the political staff of a new administration is to ban the very activity that we do, even temporarily, we cannot just sit idly by.
We know that the 60-day temporary ban announced by Acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega was just an initial step to a more permanent ban. And indeed, just one week later the president himself signed a ban on all new leasing into the indefinite future. Because we know that a “pause” on new leases to “launch a rigorous review of all leasing and permitting” (emphasis added) means a years-long ban on leasing that will last at least Biden’s entire term.