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Biden’s offshore drilling proposal would allow for up to 11 sales

NEW ORLEANS – President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday proposed up to 10 oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one off the coast of Alaska over the next five years – against those of the Democrats climate promises but is rolling back a Trump-era plan that envisaged dozens of offshore drilling opportunities, including in undeveloped areas.

Administration officials said fewer than 11 lease sales — or even no lease sales at all — could take place, with a final decision not due for months. New drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts would be blocked after being considered under Trump.

The proposal drew backlash from both environmentalists – who accused Biden of betraying the climate cause – and oil industry officials and allies, who said it would do little to counter high energy prices.

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The Interior Department suspended leasehold sales in late January over climate concerns, but was forced to resume them by a US district judge in Louisiana.

The Biden administration cited conflicting court rulings on this decision the last planned rental sales canceled in the Gulf and Alaska during the previous offshore lease cycle

That previous five-year cycle, a program passed under former President Barack Obama, expired Thursday.

There will be a month-long gap before a new plan can be put in place. The oil industry and its allies say the delay could cause problems in planning new wells and potentially lead to reduced oil production.

Friday’s proposal sent “mixed signals,” said Marty Durbin, president of the US chamber’s Global Energy Institute.

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“Reliable, affordable energy requires long-term planning, a government-wide approach, and clear signals to the market. This proposal offers none of that,” Durbin said.

But the announcement was a bitter disappointment to environmentalists and some Democrats who rallied around then-candidate Biden as he vowed to halt new drilling on state lands and waters.

The proposal comes a day after the administration held its first onshore lease sales, $22 million in an auction giving energy companies drilling rights to about 110 square miles (285 square kilometers) in seven western states. The sale came anyway the administration’s own determinations that burning oil and gas from the packages could potentially cause billions of dollars in future climate damage.

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“Our public lands and waters are already responsible for almost a quarter of the country’s carbon pollution every year. There is no point in adding new lease sales to this equation while the climate crisis unfolds all around us,” said Raul Grijalva, Chair of the Natural Resources Committee of the D-Arizona House of Representatives.

Cynthia Sartou, executive director of environmental nonprofit Healthy Gulf, called the lease sale plan “a tremendous loss to Gulf residents, American energy policy and the global climate.”

Moderate Democrat Joe Manchin, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, hailed the proposal as an opportunity to “get our leasing program back on track.”

“While Americans everywhere are suffering from record-high gas prices and disruptions in the global oil market caused by Putin’s senseless war in Ukraine (of Russian leader Vladimir), the Interior Department has not conducted a successful offshore lease sale since November 2020,” the lawmaker said from West Virginia.

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Under the Trump administration, interior officials had proposed 47 sales, including 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, 19 in Alaska and nine off the Atlantic Seaboard, which were later withdrawn. Trump lost the 2020 election before the proposal was finalized.

The current format of holding Gulf-wide sales was introduced under Obama as interest in offshore leases waned. Before that, there had been regional sales for decades.

Friday’s announcement opens a 90-day public comment period, then a final plan must be submitted 60 days before it becomes effective.

The government held one Offshore Lease Auction in the Gulf of Mexico in November, which raised $192 million in bids. A court canceled this sale before the leases were issued.

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Home Secretary Deb Haaland previously said the industry was “set” with the height. Drilling permits stored and made available l. She testified during a House hearing in April that the industry has about 9,000 permits that have been approved but are not being used.

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Brown reported from Billings, Mont.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/07/01/biden-offshore-drilling-proposal-would-allow-up-to-11-sales/ Biden’s offshore drilling proposal would allow for up to 11 sales

Sarah Y. Kim

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