DENVER – Western Energy Alliance today criticized the Department of the Interior for extending the onshore leasing ban another quarter, as it missed the 45-day deadline to hold a sale in the first quarter of 2022. The missed deadline means continued defiance of a court order requiring the department to hold lease sales in accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act.
“Pres. Biden just told the American people he’ll work like the devil to lower prices at the gas pump. But the lack of progress on federal lease sales means he’s not trying very hard,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Alliance. “The department continues to miss deadlines, drag its feet, and ignore a judge’s ruling to hold sales. The Biden Administration is intent on preventing American producers from developing the energy we have at home to meet our country’s needs and lower gas prices.”
Interior stated in documents filed in two federal court cases onshore lease sales would be held in the first quarter this year. In Western Energy Alliance v. Biden, the agency stated, "Interior presently anticipates publishing updated NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] analysis by early November, in preparation for lease sales in the first quarter of 2022." The Alliance filed the suit in January 2021 to challenge the president’s ban on new onshore lease sales.
In Louisiana v. Biden, after a federal judge ruled in June 2021 both onshore and offshore oil and natural gas lease sales must resume, Interior said it would publish notices of competitive sale in December 2021 “followed by holding a lease sale approximately forty-five days after the lease sale notices are posted.” But now seven months after the judge’s order, there’s still no sales notice and no indication that the department has started the months-long process for the second quarter lease sales. The department continues to miss the Mineral Leasing Act’s target of holding at least four quarterly lease sales per state.
The Bureau of Land Management also committed to holding first quarter lease sales in documents published last November, stating, “In addition to this lease sale, the BLM is offering parcels in six other BLM administrative units within the first quarter of 2022.”
“The oil and natural gas on federal public lands belong to the American people and could help the nation lower energy prices. Instead, the president lobbies Russia and OPEC to boost their production while constraining American producers. As a result, gas prices remain high and the president makes empty promises,” added Sgamma.
In addition to betraying promises to the courts, Interior officials are also misleading Congress. Just last week, Interior’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary - Land and Mineral Management, Laura Daniel-Davis, testified before the U.S. Senate that “leasing is ongoing, onshore and offshore.”
“It’s flat out incorrect to say public lands leasing is ongoing. The reality is there hasn’t been a single onshore lease sale since the Biden Administration took office and it’s unclear there’s one on the horizon. From the looks of it, the Biden Administration is working like the devil to hinder, not help, American production,” concluded Sgamma.
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