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Biden administration calls for hike in federal drilling fees in report that largely sidesteps climate issues

<i>Alex Wong/Getty Images</i><br/>The Interior Department releases a long-awaited review of federal oil and gas leasing program. Pictured is the seal of U.S. Interior Department.
Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images
The Interior Department releases a long-awaited review of federal oil and gas leasing program. Pictured is the seal of U.S. Interior Department.

By Liz Stark, CNN

The Department of the Interior on Friday released a long-awaited review of oil and gas drilling on federal lands and oceans that recommends an increase in leasing fees and consideration of environmental concerns in leasing decisions. But the report largely sidesteps climate change issues, and does not recommend a halt to new oil and gas leasing — a promise President Joe Biden campaigned on.

The report, which Biden commissioned last January, outlines a series of primarily fiscal reforms for the federal oil and gas program, which Interior said currently “fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers.”

Environmental groups expressed concerns about the review and called for more urgent action to be taken to address the climate crisis.

“These trivial changes are nearly meaningless in the midst of this climate emergency, and they break Biden’s campaign promise to stop new oil and gas leasing on public lands,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it’s OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. There’s no time left for baby steps that let the fossil-fuel industry wreak even greater havoc on the Earth.”

“We urge the Biden administration to build on this report by phasing out new oil and gas leasing altogether,” said Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s Lands Protection Program, “and we call on Congress to include these reforms in the final Build Back Better Act to ensure that our public lands are part of the climate solution, instead of enriching oil company CEOs at the public’s expense.”

The report comes as the Biden administration has faced criticism from some environmental advocates for moving forward with reopening millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico to auction for drilling. The auction is at odds with Biden’s climate agenda — the President has promised to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 — and environmental advocates said it could set US climate goals back for years.

The administration tried in its first days in office to put a stop to new oil and gas drilling. Biden’s January order paused new leases and directed the Interior Department to launch a comprehensive review of existing programs related to fossil fuel development. But a lawsuit filed in March on behalf of 13 states led to a judgment that blocked Biden’s pause, and the administration is appealing that decision.

“The Interior Department has an obligation to responsibly manage our public lands and waters — providing a fair return to the taxpayer and mitigating worsening climate impacts — while staying steadfast in the pursuit of environmental justice,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement Friday. “This review outlines significant deficiencies in the federal oil and gas programs, and identifies important and urgent fiscal and programmatic reforms that will benefit the American people.”

The review notes that the federal oil and gas program’s fiscal components are “particularly outdated, with royalty rates that have not been raised for 100 years.”

“Consideration should be given to raising royalty rates and, to the extent allowed by statute, to increasing the current minimum levels for bids, rents, royalties, and bonds,” the report states.

The review also encourages congressional action “on pending legislation to provide fundamental reforms to the onshore and offshore oil and gas programs.”

While the leasing program review outlines a “set of important and long overdue reforms,” House Natural Resources Chair Raúl Grijalva underscored the need for more permanent solutions.

“The administration needs to manage public lands and waters consistent with its climate commitments, and today’s report does not offer a plan to do that,” Grijalva said in a statement. “What it does offer is a set of important and long overdue reforms to the federal fossil fuel leasing program, which until now has been a public subsidy for oil and gas drilling and extraction.”

“We need new industry financial requirements and greater public transparency around leasing, and the administration should start making these welcome changes as soon as possible,” the Arizona Democrat added.

“Congress needs to end wasteful subsidies and advance leasing reform bills while that’s happening because every American sees climate change all around them, and we all know that impermanent policy changes at the margins won’t reduce emissions enough to protect our quality of life.”

Friday’s report also follows Biden’s announcement earlier this week to release emergency oil reserves to combat high energy prices ahead of the busy holiday travel season.

The administration could have chosen to increase domestic oil production, but the White House has been wary of the optics of the President and his aides pushing for more drilling at home on the heels of the major UN climate summit COP26, where Biden promised that the US would “lead by example” on clean energy initiatives.

This story has been updated with more details and background.

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  1. – hike in drilling fees: from next to nothing to slightly more than next to nothing

    – all our land is still for sale at bargain prices

    – we still have to pay for all the cleanup after the “extracting” is done

    – no substantive control of methane emissions

    – drill baby drill

    – nothing different here than the last 50 years

    – a couple of very rich people on a burnt cinder of a planet – now there’s good use of our tax dollars, and our public lands

    1. Zo,
      You’re just another those types that thinks if you say it enough it comes true. Everything you just stated is the furthest from the truth as usual. Do you ever get embarrassed?

      1. – hey Phil, you showed up with nothing (again), and you’re trying to shade me? – what’s up? – you trying to defend this administration’s giving our land to the highest bidder while sending climate destruction full steam ahead? – didn’t know you were a Biden apologist too

        1. That would all be truly scary is in fact the climate were being destroyed. It’s all a political agenda. They asked 100 scientists if the believe the climate is changing. When the scientists said yes, but never bothered to listen to why. Our climate goes through a normal cycling based on the Earth’s wobble on it’s axis. Nothing more.

          1. – you know what’s really scary? – that you might actually believe the wacky shtuff you write – you… people who try (really badly) to sound all scientific while denying science really crack me up

        2. You complain about “climate destruction”…. While the geezer in Chief re-invigorates the Chinese and Indian coal industries overnight ??? That’s some talent you got there- talking out of both sides of yer mouth at the same time.

          1. – no kidding – business as usual, and same as it ever was, yet you continue to be a paying participant in the donkey vs elephants hokum – good thing you play your part well, the global oligarchy thanks you for your enthusiastic participation their wealth accumulation and the ravaging of OUR planet – carry on

        3. If you aren’t open or comfortable with discourse on a public forum offered by a private sector business (KTVZ 21)-

          Then simply don’t post.

          It’s that simple.

    2. This is Biden’s payback to his friends in the oil industry. When Biden go elected gas was $2.38 a gallon. Now it is about $4.00. Where does that extra money go??? To Biden’s buddies.

      1. – yes, it’s Biden’s payback to the oligarchy, just like his predecessor, and his predecessor, and his…..but please don’t be naive enough to repeat the Tucker rendition of how gas prices got to where they are – the dis-information cabal is depending on your complacency and frankly, your ignorance and sloth when it comes to understanding anything more complicated than a cheese sandwich – don’t make it so easy for them – if nothing else at least try to understand how things work instead of repeating what they tell you

    1. You got it. The senile old man that some refer to as the president couldn’t be dumber. Raise fees on oil companies and that should lower the price of gasoline…what a disgrace the old dirtbag Biden is.

          1. – you have never heard of OPEC? (why doesn’t that surprise anyone who has ever read any post of yours) – ok, one last attempt, then i’m giving up – last fall, over a year ago, the OPEC ministers got together for a little meeting – it was reported on by media outlets around the world, ignored, and promptly forgotten – darned if they didn’t do exactly what they said they would do – i greatly encourage you to doubt every word i have written here and check for yourself

      1. Companies choose to pass costs on to you. No one in the government sets the prices they can charge nor what their profits margins should be. All the blame for higher prices goes squarely to private sector’s choice to raise them.

    1. – there is a herd of 4th grade boys who are elbowing each other and laughing like Bevis and Butthead – all you tough guys scared to death to speak plainly and using your special secret code…. so cool

  2. The coordinated SPR release by 6 countries should lower gas prices. And if by chance meathead, which I doubt came up with this multi nation plan he deserves credit. In reality though his sinking poll #’s may have given him cause to temporarily back off on his curtailed energy production that resulted in inflation that helped to finance his socialist programs.

  3. Oh those poor oil companies…..
    How will they be able sustain operating? What he cuts their billions in subsidized tax dollars and ended corporate socialism?
    Those poor little companies so sad to see….
    Trump****** aren’t going to like this

    1. – unfortunately, this is the USA – we the people exist to pay subsidies to the wealthy – ask congress and every administration for the last several generations

    2. Oil companies won’t suffer- those at the US filling stations will. Those who rely on petroleum products for their plastic products will. Anyone dependent on the sulfur bi-products produced during the refining process (for medicines and chemical additives) will suffer… Oil companies are making cash hand over fist- and always will. Biden has done nothing but make Americans suffer- Saudi’s richer- and re-boot Chinese coal factories. Impeach this fool- and save the planet !

  4. The leftist agenda is working brilliantly. The cost of all petroleum related products will continue to rise as long as people who have no idea how basic supply and demand works are in control. Of course, everybody still needs all these products as they are EVERYWHERE in our society but the facts don’t matter. The left is happy to get their oil from other countries. Not friendly countries like Canada of course. Heaven forbid we use a pipeline to transport oil from our neighbor. No, it makes way more sense to get our oil from the middle east using tankers. It’s much better to deal with hostile countries and risk war every few years to maintain our supply of oil. Why would any thinking person want to produce our own oil domestically? It only makes sense to the leftist loonies.

    And until the folks who want to ban all fossil fuels stop using all products made from petroleum which is basically everything that surrounds you, stop using any products shipped by sea rail or truck, stop heating their homes with gas, stop using electricity (65% of which comes from fossil fuels), stop BBQ’ing with propane, stop driving their gas car, (and no, EV’s are bad too because they are made with many petroleum based plastics, computer chips, tires, parts made from factories using fossil fuels, etc)… you get the idea. Basically, unless you live in a log cabin you made yourself with hand tools from materials growing in the forest around you, stop being a hypocrite and demanding we stop using fossil fuels!

        1. Anyone who claims there are simple solutions are lying to themselves, perhaps others.
          Braver Angels. The Bridge Alliance. Ending this Blame Society. Those are the real answers. Challenging, difficult, but crucial.

  5. Unfortunately, we are moving faster on eliminating fossil fuels than building green infrastructure to replace it. That’s why energy inflation is here to stay and I expect we will see blackouts and brownouts galore before we get our “green” replacement.

    1. I have seen no reputable reports that the crime was racially motivated, have you? If not, why is it germane to the discussion? It’s not. It’s like bringing up a shooting victim’s criminal background when it’s not germane to the charges that were filed in court.
      Those who accuse others of seeing everything through a racial lens often are doing exactly what they falsely accuse others of, because their side is good and holy, the other side is evil, etc. etc.

  6. While the child sniffing liar lies that his policies have nothing to do with high energy prices. Good thing CNN will be out to cover for his lies. “Biden says it so it is true 100%”

  7. Interesting how more and more of these reports coming from fairly independent / fact-driven Sources are illustrating how simply la-la land the Biden Team is on nearly every subject under the sun.

    2022 – vote the loons out and bring back adult leadership.

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