Trans-Alaska oil pipeline

The U.S. Department of Interior is expected to issue an interim report early this summer on the Biden Administration’s recommendations for new oil and gas lease sales.

President Biden put on hold sales of new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters after taking office in January. Biden ordered the Interior Department to review existing policies and recommend requirements for future lease sales. 

As part of the review, the Interior Department is inviting public comment through April 15 on how to proceed. 

The public can submit comments online by emailing energyreview@ios.doi.gov.

Oil industry experts have warned that the current moratorium on new gas and oil lease sales and any future restrictions could diminish domestic supplies and harm U.S. security and the economy.

Environmentalists have raised concern about the effect of burning fossil fuels on greenhouse gases and climate change.

Current operations or permits are unaffected by the executive order, according to the Interior Department.

But findings from the pending report could impact future site locations for oil and gas drilling and royalty payments, among other issues. 

In Alaska, petroleum taxes and royalties represent about 20 percent of all state revenue.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told reporters last week that the interim report will focus on “fundamental questions” about the oil and gas program and the nation’s “energy future.”

She said the Interior Department is studying whether the existing oil and gas program is yielding “a fair return to American taxpayers.” 

The report will “outline next steps and recommendations for the Department and Congress to improve stewardship of public lands and waters, create jobs, and build a just and equitable energy future,” according to a prepared statement by the Interior Department.

The report also will examine the effects of fossil fuels on climate change and invite comments from all stakeholders, including tribal communities impacted by oil and gas drilling.

Haaland said that the Interior Department wants to assure that “the right mechanisms [are] in place to avoid irreparable harm to wildlife, water, sacred sites and beyond.”

Biden’s executive order directed the Interior Department to put on hiatus “new oil and natural gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters, concurrent with a comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program,” according to  the Interior Department.

Unaffected are “energy activities on private or state lands, or lands that the United States holds in trust or restricted status for tribes or individual Indians.”

Since pausing new gas and oil leases, the Biden Administration announced plans to invest in and encourage renewable energy, including a major project for wind farms on the East Coast.

Contact political reporter Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.