Biden Drilling Deal Pleases Few

Interior to allow three offshore oil lease sales through 2029, a sharp reduction
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2023 5:05 PM CDT
Biden Drilling Deal Pleases Few
This 2011 photo shows a rig and supply vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

The Biden administration is steering a middle path on offshore oil lease sales, a decision that displeases the industry and its Republican supporters as well as environmental advocates who say the president is breaking a campaign promise. The Interior Department on Friday announced three offshore oil lease sales through 2029, the fewest ever under its program. And no sale will be offered in 2024, Politico reports, marking the first year in the program's four decades that companies will be unable to bid for the right to drill in the Gulf of Mexico or the waters off Alaska.

Following a period of 11 lease sales over five years, one lease will be scheduled in each of three years: 2025, 2027, 2029. That's the minimum allowed under terms in the Inflation Reduction Act put there by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Under the 2022 law, the government has to offer 60 million acres offshore for oil and gas leasing before it can permit wind farms to be built in federal waters, per the New York Times. Manchin was among those criticizing the decision on Friday, saying the Biden administration is carrying out a "radical political agenda" with so few sales.

During his campaign, President Biden promised "no new drilling, period" on public lands or federal waters. But Congress and the courts have thwarted him, per the Times. Still, all sides were critical of Biden for this decision. The Center for American Progress called it disappointing but nevertheless cast the plan for fewer leases "a sign of progress." The head of the American Petroleum Institute objected, saying, "This restrictive offshore leasing program is the latest tactic in a coordinated strategy to reduce energy production." An environmental group based in New Orleans raised the impact of drilling on the health of people living near it. "The Gulf is the sacrifice zone of America and people of this region are so tired of being sacrificed," said Christian Wagley. (More offshore oil stories.)

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