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‘Unconscionable’: Environmental Groups Rip Biden Over Oil, Gas Drilling Restart

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Thomas Catenacci Energy & Environment Reporter
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More than a dozen environmental groups lambasted the Biden administration’s announcement that it would restart the federal oil and gas leasing program.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Earthjustice and at least 12 other leading organizations expressed their disappointment, arguing the action suggested the administration wasn’t serious about tackling climate change. The groups said the oil and gas leasing program should be permanently ended.

“The Biden administration’s claim that it must hold these lease sales is pure fiction and a reckless failure of climate leadership,” Randi Spivak, the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands director, said in a statement. “These so-called reforms are 20 years too late and will only continue to fuel the climate emergency. These lease sales should be shelved and the climate-destroying federal fossil fuel programs brought to an end.” (RELATED: ‘Consumers Lose’: Biden’s Ethanol Gambit Will Send Food Prices Soaring, Critics Say)

The Department of the Interior unveiled the reformed oil and gas leasing program Friday, signaling that it would soon hold lease sales for drilling companies. The announcement was criticized by fossil fuel industry groups that noted the program reduced the amount of land available for drilling by 80% and hiked royalty rates.

President Joe Biden initially tried to ban all new leasing on federal lands and waters after assuming office in January 2021, but a federal judge halted the moratorium months later. The administration, though, still hasn’t held a single onshore lease sale since taking office and hasn’t awarded an offshore lease.

President Joe Biden speaks at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Arvada, Colorado on Sept. 14, 2021. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden speaks at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Arvada, Colorado on Sept. 14, 2021. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

“The best available science already shows that we cannot continue leasing on our public lands and meet President Biden’s stated climate goals,” Earthjustice president Abigail Dillen said. “If the Biden administration is serious about addressing climate change, its actions need to start matching its words.”

Fossil Free Media, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Citizens Caring for the Future, the Western Environmental Law Center and Friends of the Earth were among the other groups to issue disapproving statements.

“It is unconscionable that the [Bureau of Land Management] will go forward with these oil and gas lease sales as we continue to see the devastating effects of climate change, particularly in the Southwestern United States,” said Deborah McNamara, the campaigns director at 350 Colorado. “Continuing business as usual at the BLM with ongoing oil and gas lease sales will not get us where we need to be.”

Kyle Tisdel, the director of the climate and energy program at the Western Environmental Law Center, added that the issue wasn’t about politics but “life and death.”

“We have heard a lot of rhetoric from President Biden and his administration about the need to take action on climate,” he said in a statement. “But not only is the administration not doing everything it could — it is not really doing anything.”

An Interior spokesperson blamed the federal court’s ruling for the policy reversal in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“President Biden called for no new oil and gas drilling on Day One, and Secretary Haaland fully supports that effort,” the spokesperson said. “Unfortunately, a series of court challenges and injunctions – which we are appealing – have forced us to proceed with some leasing.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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