The Department of the Interior announced on Friday, April 15, that it will resume leasing public lands starting next week amid skyrocketing gasoline prices and inflation, thus reversing a policy of ending leases it promised on the campaign trail.
In its announcement, the Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the Interior Department, said Monday it would begin issuing notices of sale and environmental analyses of land for upcoming oil and gas leasing projects, according to Fox News.
The agency said “173 parcels of land on approximately 144,000 acres” would be offered, an 80% reduction from the originally nominated acreage.
President Biden is under tremendous political pressure to lower fuel prices. Earlier, he had taken a drastic step when he announced the unprecedented release of 180 million barrels of crude oil from the federal strategic reserve.
The Interior Department also announced that it would raise royalties, increasing rates from 12.5% to 18.75%.
Raising rates was criticized by Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, who said the decision to raise leasing costs further hinders energy production.
“After begging U.S. oil and natural gas companies for months to produce more, the Biden administration is still doing everything it can to restrict leasing of federal lands,” Barrasso said, according to The Hill.
“First, it was an illegal moratorium imposed at the start of his presidency. Now it’s this proposal to dramatically increase the cost of onshore leases while cutting the acres offered for lease by 80%. The president claims he’s doing nothing to limit domestic production, but once again his administration is making American energy more expensive and harder to produce.”
While Frank Macchiarola, vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, specified that they were pleased by the announcement of the resumption of leases for oil and gas drilling. But, he said withholding acreage and increasing royalty rates could “discourage oil and natural gas investment on federal lands.”
“We are concerned that this action adds new barriers to increasing energy production, including removing some of the most significant parcels,” Macchiarola added.