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Interior Leasing Plan Stalled Despite Sweeping Climate Rhetoric

Nov. 4, 2021, 7:34 PM

The Interior Department is still reviewing its long-expected look at the future of the federal oil and gas leasing program and has no definitive timeline to announce next steps, agency officials said Thursday at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow.

“We’re still working on it. I think we’ve said that repeatedly. We’ve been informed by a lot of the review that we’ve been doing, and you can see how we’re moving forward with lease sales,” Laura Daniel-Davis, principal deputy assistant Interior secretary for land and minerals management, said in an interview.

Daniel-Davis’ comments came as her boss, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, told reporters at the conference that “this week we find ourselves at a pivotal moment that requires us to think big and make bold moves to address climate change.”

Interior had promised to release the report, which is expected to detail possible changes to the program due to its impact on climate change, over the summer. The report has been delayed without a release date.

The White House “paused” leasing in January as part of the its climate change agenda, but that tactic got the administration in legal trouble in June after a federal judge in Louisiana v. Biden ordered Interior to resume leasing. An offshore lease sale has been scheduled for November and onshore sales scheduled for early 2022.

Changes Made

Haaland told reporters in Glasgow that the department is already making changes to the way it conducts lease sales.

“We’re making a lot of changes now,” she said. “Even without the report, we know it needs to happen. We are doing whatever we can at the department to ensure that we are analyzing these leases with climate change as the backdrop.”

The U.S. in Glasgow pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by mid-century, slash global methane emissions by 30% within nine years, stop funding foreign fossil-fuel projects and halt deforestation, but the U.S. so far has not pledged to fully stop burning coal, oil and gas—the chief drivers of climate change.

COP26 is the 26th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which runs through Nov. 12.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bobby Magill at bmagill@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergindustry.com