Senator’s Bill Seeks to Stop Biden Restricting Drilling on Federal Lands Without Approval From Congress

Updated: 2021-01-28 10:10:11

In opposition to President Joe Biden’s executive order to block new leasing of oil and gas drilling on federal lands, Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) is introducing a bill that would limit the White House from such actions without congressional approval.

Biden signed a broad executive action on Wednesday, the goal of which is to achieve “a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and (which) puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050,” and includes a pause on new oil and gas drilling on U.S. government lands.

The senator from one of the top fossil fuel-producing states criticized Biden’s unilateral executive action as destructive for existing sectors of the U.S. economy and as an attack on the livelihoods of many Wyomingites.

“The #BidenBan on energy leasing on federal lands will have unprecedented economic consequences on WY and the U.S. Lost wages and jobs, declining economic activity, and lost revenue is just the start. The ripple effect will be disastrous and affect families from coast to coast,” Lummis said.

The executive action also includes subscribing to the paradigm of climate change as defined by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a national security priority while conserving at least 30 percent of federal land and oceans by 2030.

The U.N. warns on its website that “irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system, may already have been reached or passed.” But some challengers have said, while the science of CO2 being a greenhouse gas that contributes to warmer temperatures is settled, solutions to the problem are not limited to top-down social reengineering approaches currently promoted, like the Green New Deal and the World Economic Forum’s proposed Great Reset.

Lummis said in a press statement on Wednesday, “A mere 24 hours ago, President Biden stood before America promising to unify our nation. Yet on day one, he took divisive actions to devastate Wyoming’s economy. Make no mistake about it, the Biden Ban is a strike on the heart of Wyoming jobs, families, and communities.

“His actions to appease the radical left will be borne disproportionately on the shoulders of states like Wyoming with high amounts of federal lands,” she added.

The Wyoming senator said her complete legislation will likely be released on Thursday, alongside a similar bill in the House led by Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.).

Herrell on Monday criticized Biden’s plan to ban new oil and gas drilling.

“The oil and gas industry is the lifeblood of our state’s economy,” Herrell wrote of New Mexico. “If banned today, New Mexico stands to lose more than 60,000 jobs by 2022. The loss of these good-paying, family-supporting jobs would devastate entire communities and have grave long-term consequences for our state.

“Royalty payments and taxes on the oil and gas industry account for more than a third of the state’s annual budget. The state’s K-12 public education system alone received more than $1 billion in funding from the oil and gas industry last year, which equates to $60,062 per teacher and $3,788 per student,” she added.

The Biden administration said on Wednesday that it has a “concrete” plan to address the impending job losses looming for the industry by creating “more than a quarter million jobs to do things like plug the millions of abandoned oil and gas wells” that pose a health and safety threat to communities.

“They’re abandoned wells that are open now, and we’re going to put people to work. They’re not going to lose jobs in these areas; they’re going to create jobs,” he said. It is unclear from his remarks how the government plans to pay for the proposed health and safety works.

Days earlier on the second day of the Biden’s administration, the Department of the Interior had moved to suspend new leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands for 60 days. The executive order now extends that moratorium beyond the two months until a review by the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Secretary of Energy is completed.

The analysis will “consider whether to adjust royalties associated with coal, oil, and gas resources extracted from public lands and offshore waters, or take other appropriate action, to account for corresponding climate costs,” the order states.

Former Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.), who lost her swing district seat in Oklahoma to Republican challenger now-Rep. Stephanie Bice, had opposed the Biden campaign’s stance on moving away from fossil fuels, saying instead that all forms of energy are need to be harnessed for America’s energy independence.

“Here’s one of the places Biden and I disagree,” Horn wrote on Twitter in the lead up to the general election. “We must stand up for our oil and gas industry. We need an all-of-the-above energy approach that’s consumer-friendly, values energy independence, and protects OK jobs. I’ll keep fighting for that in Congress.”

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told Axios that the Biden campaign’s “perceived hostility to oil and gas” may have contributed to Horn’s loss.

While both Republicans and Democrats from fossil fuel-dependent states have been critical of Biden’s pledges to limit or halt the use of fossil fuels, other mostly Democratic lawmakers and progressives have praised the president’s actions, which they believe are in the name of helping save the planet and present as the key solution to the United Nation’s predictions of an impending crisis posed by climate change.

“A pause on leasing is just the first step, however. Now it’s up to the Interior Department and Congress to craft new rules and legislation that ensures America’s public lands are part of the climate solution, instead of part of the problem,” Jesse Prentice-Dunn, policy director at the Center for Western Priorities, a public lands watchdog group, said in a statement.

Other executive actions that the Biden administration has taken to combat the climate crisis and seek “environmental justice” since his inauguration include suspending the Keystone pipeline project and the rejoining of the United Nation’s Paris Climate Accords.

Melanie Sun contributed to this report.

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