Haaland defends domestic policies and cites unused leases

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland defended the Biden administration’s progress on federal fossil fuel leasing during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Wednesday, focusing on unused leases from the Biden administration. industry on federal lands.

Questioning Haaland, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) cited the recent five-year lease proposal issued by the Interior Department, questioning the likelihood that the administration will not hold any lease sales , which the plan identifies as an option.

Haaland did not offer an estimate, saying only that the department would consider public comments received during the 90-day public comment period and pledging to take a “balanced approach.”

Responding to a follow-up question from Hyde-Smith about offshore drilling, Haaland replied: “There are approximately 9,000 approved drilling licenses across the country currently not in use, 10.4 million acres of ‘offshore federal waters already under lease.’

“I know there are a lot of fuel price considerations, but I want to assure you that at the Home Office we are doing our job and following the law to move these issues forward,” he said. -she adds.

In January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order temporarily suspending new oil and gas leases on federal lands. High gas prices today are due to a number of factors, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and production that has struggled to keep pace with demand, but the administration has frequently cited the number of unused leases to counter criticism of its energy policies. .

Sen. Jack Reed (DR.I.) also cited unused leases in his own questioning of Haaland, noting that the administration’s first year saw a record high for oil production from offshore and onshore federal lands. , as well as the fact that about 75% of offshore federal land leased by oil companies sits unused.

Reed then asked Haaland if it was correct to say that “the price of oil is so high right now that they can literally make more money just by extracting from existing wells and not by increasing production, which would reduce costs.

Haaland did not directly co-sign Reed’s characterization, noting that “there’s a lot that goes into” fuel prices, including ongoing international unrest.

Betty K. Park