Nov 29, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Oil-and-gas leasing plan shows climate agenda's limits

Illustration of a hand in a business suit drawing a red line in front of an oil rig
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The big policy news over the break was the Interior Department's Black Friday release of its review of oil-and-gas leasing policy.

Catch up fast: The long-awaited document recommends higher royalty rates, bidding costs and rental costs.

  • It also calls for a more selective and restrictive approach to deciding which lands and waters to offer, Axios' Torey Van Oot reports.

Why it matters: While federal lands and waters are a relatively small share of U.S. production, there's still expansive development.

  • Climate activists have looked to federal leasing and permitting policy as a place where the Biden administration could impose major new limits on fossil fuel development.

Yes, but: The plan stops far short of President Biden's campaign platform, which vowed sweeping new restrictions.

  • The Black Friday release underscores how the administration is in a politically delicate spot on oil-and-gas policy.
  • The White House faces political jeopardy from elevated gasoline prices and last week announced a major release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

What they're saying: "Lesser availability at higher prices and stricter standards for a smaller pool of bidders may not meet some environmental activists’ hopes for an outright leasing ban," the research firm ClearView Energy Partners said in a note.

  • "But...this approach could still significantly curtail future federal oil and gas production activity while remaining consistent with existing laws."

Go deeper: Oil-and-Gas Companies Should Pay Higher Fees to Drill on Federal Lands, Interior Department Says (WSJ)

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