“Oil, Gas Industry Stockpiled Drilling Leases Before Biden ‘Pause’”

“A stockpile of federal oil and gas leases across an Ohio-sized swath of land in the West shows the fossil fuel industry was preparing for a leasing moratorium for years, former Interior Department officials say.

President Joe Biden imposed what he described as a “pause” on federal oil and gas leasing on Wednesday as part of his climate policy—while allowing millions of acres of existing leases to remain unaffected. Nevertheless, industry representatives and elected officials in the West lambasted the move, saying it’ll deprive Western states of much-needed income for basic state services.

But the industry’s “huge inventory” of undeveloped existing leases and drilling permits are evidence that the oil and gas industry anticipated a “pause” in leasing long ago, said John Leshy, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings and former Interior solicitor in the Clinton administration.

That “makes the ‘sky is falling’ rhetoric from the industry and its allies a bit over the top,” Leshy said Thursday. “Especially since many of the Trump-era lease offerings attracted no bids, or only minimum bids.””

Bobby Magill reports for Bloomberg Environment January 28, 2021.