Interior Department outlines next steps in fossil fuels program review
WASHINGTON — As part of the comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program called for in Executive Order 14008, the Interior Department will host a virtual forum on Thursday, March 25. The day-long forum will feature several panels to highlight perspectives from industry representatives, labor and environmental justice organizations, natural resource advocates, and other experts.
Fossil fuel extraction on public lands accounts for nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Multiple bills in Congress have been introduced in recent years to reform the program, including those to better ensure the public is not shut out of land management and leasing decisions; to address the mounting cleanup and remediation costs of orphan wells scattered across the country; and to provide a fair return to taxpayers for the use of their resources.
Over the last few years the oil and gas industry has stockpiled millions of acres of leases on public lands and waters. Onshore, of the more than 26 million acres under lease to the oil and gas industry, nearly 13.9 million (or 53%) of those acres are non-producing. Offshore, of the more than 12 million acres of public waters under lease, over 9.3 million (or 77%) of those acres are non-producing. Onshore and offshore, the oil and gas industry currently holds approximately 7,700 unused, approved drilling permits.
Yet in spite of these facts, the Trump administration offered for lease more than 25 million acres of public land onshore and more than 78 million acres offshore for oil, gas and mineral development. While only 5.6 million onshore acres were purchased and 5 million offshore, this result clearly indicates that it is time for the Interior Department to take steps to better manage our public lands.
“The federal oil and gas program is not serving the American public well. It’s time to take a close look at how to best manage our nation’s natural resources with current and future generations in mind,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Land and Minerals Management Laura Daniel-Davis. “This forum will help inform the department’s near-term actions to restore balance on America’s lands and waters and to put our public lands’ energy programs on a more sound and sustainable conservation, fiscal and climate footing.”
The information gathered at the forum, which will be live-streamed, will help inform an interim report from the department that will be completed in early summer. The report will include initial findings on the state of the federal conventional energy programs, as well as outline next steps and recommendations for the Department and Congress to improve stewardship of public lands and waters, create jobs, and build a just and equitable energy future.
In addition to the forum, the Interior Department is conducting outreach to Members of Congress, Governors, Tribes, and other state and local elected leaders. Members of the public will be able to offer written comments to inform the interim report. Details on how to view the forum or submit comments will be forthcoming.
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Of the approximately 2,270 acres that burned in the April 1, 2021, Medora, N.D., fire, rancher Doug Tescher said all but about 100 acres were U.S. Forest Service land that he utilizes for summer grazing.