Joe Biden ‘to pause oil drilling on public lands’

Joe Biden ‘to pause oil drilling on public lands’
Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Joe Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on US lands, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Donald Trump’s policies on energy and the environment and address climate change.

Two sources outlined the proposed moratorium, which will be announced on Wednesday.

The move follows a 60-day suspension of new drilling permits for US lands and waters announced last week and follows the new president’s campaign pledge to halt new drilling on federal lands and end the leasing of publicly owned energy reserves as part of his plan to address climate change.

The moratorium is intended to allow time for officials to review the impact of oil and gas drilling on the environment and climate.

Environmental groups hailed the expected moratorium as the kind of bold, urgent action needed to slow climate change.

“The fossil fuel industry has inflicted tremendous damage on the planet. The administration’s review, if done correctly, will show that filthy fracking and drilling must end for good, everywhere,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director at the Centre for Biological Diversity.

Oil industry groups condemned the move, saying Mr Biden had already eliminated thousands of oil and gas jobs by killing the Keystone XL oil pipeline in his first day in office.

“This is just the start. It will get worse,” said Brook Simmons, president of the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma. “Meanwhile, the laws of physics, chemistry and supply and demand remain in effect. Oil and natural gas prices are going up, and so will home heating bills, consumer prices and fuel costs.”

Preparations for the Keystone XL pipeline (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald/AP)

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas drillers in western states, said the expected executive order is intended to delay drilling on federal lands to the point where it is no longer viable.

“The environmental left is leading the agenda at the White House when it comes to energy and environment issues,” she said, noting that the moratorium would be felt most acutely in states such as Utah, Wyoming and Alaska, where Mr Biden lost to former president Donald Trump.

Under Mr Trump, federal agencies prioritised energy development and eased environmental rules to speed up drilling permits as part of the Republican’s goal to boost fossil fuel production.

He consistently downplayed the dangers of climate change, which Mr Biden, a Democrat, has made a priority.

On his first day in office last Wednesday, Mr Biden signed a series of executive orders that underscored his different approach — rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, revoking approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and telling agencies to immediately review dozens of Trump-era rules on science, the environment and public health.

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