Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) escalated tensions with President Joseph Biden by criticizing the Biden administration for being late in initiating a new offshore oil and gas leasing program after the Interior Department stated it needs until December to finalize the plan.
Lawyers for the Department of the Interior told a federal judge on Monday that their agents need the remainder of 2018 to evaluate the delayed five-year program that would replace the expired 2017-2022 one. There are currently no active offshore leasing schemes offering new lease sales.
Joe Manchin, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said the government is “putting their radical climate agenda ahead of our nation’s energy security” by postponing action. The government’s energy policies have been a frequent target of his criticism.
Manchin emphasized that “this is not optional” in a public statement. To “better serve national energy demands,” the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act states that the Secretary of the Interior “shall develop” this program.
There is a legal need for the Interior Department to publish a five-year offshore leasing program that specifies where and when oil and gas leases will be put up for auction. The Congressional Research Service reports that prior administrations have consistently introduced new programs to replace outdated ones in a timely fashion.
At the expiration of the current plan in July 2022, the department recommended a new five-year plan, but no additional details have been released.
Attorneys for the agency have blamed a lawsuit filed by Republican-controlled states and oil and gas industry groups for the delay.
In a court filing made on Monday, the Interior Department claimed that it expects to finish and publish a proposed final program in September 2023, which will begin a mandatory 60-day waiting period before the secretary may approve the program.
As part of a lawsuit to force the government to finally implement the long-delayed five-year program, the American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil and gas industry trade group, submitted the brief.
Inflation Reduction Act, the Democrats’ energy and healthcare expenditure proposal, was signed into law in August with many provisions that are favorable to leasing. Manchin has been pushing the administration to streamline regulations for oil and gas drilling on federal lands.
The inflation Reduction Act reauthorized three offshore lease auctions from the previous five-year program that the Interior had terminated in May 2022. Manchin said on Wednesday that it also linked the development of renewable energy sources on federal lands and oceans with the continuation of oil and gas leasing.
Please remind the government that “appropriate lease auctions for oil and gas” are required before renewable energy leases, such as offshore wind and onshore solar, may be issued.
The Department of the Interior stressed in its brief that it complies with the law when it comes to conducting lease transactions. The Alaskan offshore has already had one lease sale in December, and another is scheduled for March.
The third lease sale has to close by the end of September.