The Executive Order will direct the Department of the Interior to pause new oil and natural gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters, concurrent with a comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas programme. The targeted pause does not impact existing operations or permits for valid, existing leases, which are continuing to be reviewed and approved. Nor does it restrict energy activities on private or state lands, or lands that the United States holds in trust or restricted status for Tribes or individual Indians.
The action taken by President Biden will provide a chance to review the federal oil and gas programme to ensure that it serves the public interest and to restore balance on America’s public lands and waters to benefit current and future generations. Fossil fuel extraction on public lands accounts for nearly a quarter of all US greenhouse gas emissions. Irresponsible leasing of public lands and waters impacts communities’ access to clean air, clean water, and outdoor recreation; carves up important wildlife habitat; and threatens cultural and sacred sites. Multiple bills in Congress have been introduced in recent years to reform the outdated programme, including those to better ensure the public is not shut out of land management and leasing decisions; to address the mounting cleanup and remediation costs of orphan wells scattered across the country; and to provide a fair return to taxpayers for the use of their resources.
The oil and gas industry has stockpiled millions of acres of leases on public lands and waters.
Onshore, of the more than 26 million acres under lease to the oil and gas industry, nearly 13.9 million (or 53 percent) of those acres are unused and non-producing.
Offshore, of the more than 12 million acres of public waters under lease, over 9.3 million (or 77 percent) of those acres are unused and non-producing.
Onshore and offshore, the oil and gas industry is sitting on approximately 7,700 unused, approved permits to drill.
The Trump administration conducted a fire sale of public lands and waters, offering more than 25 million acres onshore during the past four years, 5.6 million of which were purchased. Offshore, more than 78 million acres were offered for lease to oil, gas, and mineral development offshore, and only 5 million acres were purchased.
As part of President Biden’s efforts to Build Back Better and pursue a clean energy future, the administration has committed to making investments to create millions of family-supporting and union jobs in clean energy generation, land restoration, abandoned mine cleanup, plugging of orphan oil and gas wells, energy efficiency, clean transportation, advanced manufacturing, and sustainable agriculture across America. The Executive Order will call for the Interior Department to identify steps to accelerate responsible development of renewable energy on public lands and waters, including setting a goal to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030. The Department will immediately begin a review of processes and procedures to date as it re-invests in a rigorous renewable energy programme.
It also calls for the establishment of a new Climate Conservation Corps Initiative to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate.
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