Biden Admin Has Prohibited Oil Drilling Across 41 Million Acres of Federal Lands, Sparking GOP Probe

Biden recently locked up large swaths of federal land in Alaska

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland testifies during a Senate hearing (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is facing a congressional probe over its actions functionally prohibiting oil and gas production across roughly 41 million acres of federal property—nearly equivalent to the size of the combined land and water area of Florida—the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

Republicans on the House Small Business Committee, led by chairman Roger Williams (R., Texas), penned a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Thursday morning, informing her that they are investigating her agency’s environmental policies targeting fossil fuel drilling. The lawmakers’ probe is largely responding to the administration’s recent actions curbing drilling in Alaska, but they argued those policies are emblematic of President Biden’s broader climate agenda.

“As with nearly every other action the Biden Administration has taken related to fossil fuels and mining, these actions will cost American consumers and businesses money without achieving any real environmental benefit,” they wrote in the letter, which was first reviewed by the Free Beacon. “Cars still need oil, batteries still need mineral resources, and power plants still need natural gas and coal.”

Republicans’ spotlight on Biden’s recent actions comes as energy prices continue their upward trajectory. According to data compiled by AAA, gasoline prices have increased more than 2.6 percent over the last month alone, and the latest federal data show electricity prices nationwide across the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors have climbed compared to one year ago.

The probe—joined by the committee’s vice chairman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R., Mo.) and Reps. Pete Stauber (R., Minn.), Dan Meuser (R., Pa.), and Aaron Bean (R., Fla.)—will take aim at Biden’s actions over the last several months, locking up more than 13 million acres of public land within Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, blocking new coal leases in Montana’s Powder River Basin, and preventing critical mineral production in northern Alaska.

Biden announced his Alaska actions on Earth Day in April and the Department of the Interior unveiled the coal leasing ban one month earlier. Environmental activist organizations celebrated the announcements, saying they would help combat climate change and improve health.

Those actions brought the total amount of land that that the Biden administration has closed off to energy production to a staggering 41 million acres, according to federal data cited by the Republican lawmakers. Administration officials argued the sprawling actions will protect wildlife and curb global warming, while critics warned that they would lead to higher prices across the board, contributing to the inflationary trends that have been recorded throughout Biden’s tenure.

Blocking 41 million acres from future drilling opportunities is nearly equivalent to removing the entire area of Florida, Wisconsin, or both South Carolina and West Virginia. By comparison, the 150 largest U.S. cities combined span a total of 27 million acres of land and water.

“Since President Biden stepped into the Oval Office, he has intentionally taken actions that directly harm the American oil and gas industry and the small businesses that support it,” Williams said in a statement to the Free Beacon. “Main Street plays a pivotal role in this industry, and our Committee has sent letter after letter urging this administration to consider the needs of American energy independence and the small businesses that play a part in it.”

“Unfortunately, our concerns have been largely ignored, but we will not stop in calling out these ridiculous decisions that hurt the American people,” he continued. “It is past time for President Biden to reconsider his decisions and reverse course.”

The Department of the Interior declined to comment.

Almost immediately after taking office in January 2021, Biden issued a moratorium on all new fossil fuel leasing, an action he pledged to take during his climate-centered presidential campaign in 2020. A federal court struck the moratorium down as illegal months later and an appeals court eventually stepped in, killing it for good.

The court rulings forced the administration to continue the federal oil and gas leasing program, but it has done so with new restrictions. For example, the Interior Department has hiked royalty fees on fossil fuel producers and has refused to hold onshore lease sales on a quarterly basis, a decision that has been subject to industry lawsuits.

In addition, the administration finalized the most restrictive offshore oil drilling plan in U.S. history late last year. Under the final five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program, the federal government will hold just three Gulf of Mexico lease sales through 2029, marking a stark departure from plans finalized under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Original News Source – Washington Free Beacon

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