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    Biden accused of dragging feet on new drilling leases


The Western Energy Alliance argues parcels are “ready to put on the calendar.”

by: Daniel Graeber

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Biden accused of dragging feet on new drilling leases

A group advocating for oil and natural gas work west of the Mississippi River said August 25 the US government was dragging its feet on federal oil and gas leases.

The Western Energy Alliance, a group representing the business interests of 200 mostly-small independent oil and gas producers, said the White House was not following federal mandates for quarterly lease sales. US president Joe Biden put a moratorium on new oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters in January, arguing more time was needed to consider the environmental impact.

But following a federal court ruling against the delay, the US Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said this week that it plans to submit a record of decision for a lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico to the Federal Register by the end of August. A notice for the sale would be published in September.

“By law, the lease sale may not take place sooner than 30 days after publication of the sale notice,” the department stated.

BOEM later in the fall will issue and take comments related to a draft environmental impact statement for a potential lease sale in the Cook Inlet off Alaska. The alliance, however, said it was curious about the holdup.

“The parcels originally slated for the 2021 first and second quarter sales are scoped and ready to put on the calendar,” said alliance president Kathleen Sgamma.

Advocates argue the moratorium undermines US energy security, and Biden himself later called on the OPEC to open the spigot to alleviate stubbornly-high retail gasoline prices. But Canada is by far the top crude oil exporter to the US, supplying about half of the total foreign deliveries. Mexico is the second-largest oil exporter behind Canada, accounting for about 9% of the total.

The US Energy Information Administration, meanwhile, lists the four-week moving average for domestic crude oil production at 11.3mn barrels/d, about 5% more than during the same period last year.