According to a memo from the Department of Interior, the Biden administration has suspended all new federal oil and gas drilling permits.
The suspension came into effect on January 20, after being signed by acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega, as part of Biden’s sweeping first day in the office.
It will last for 60 days and comes as part of the president’s wider plan to fight climate change by banning all new federal drilling permits and leasing of publicly-owned energy reserves.
Biden aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
The suspension also includes blocks on new mining plans, issuing fossil fuel authorizations, revising land management plans, land sales or exchanges, and the hiring of senior-level staff at the agency, according to Reuters.
However, some approvals may be permitted by specific senior officials, and the new memo doesn’t affect existing operations.
In a written press release, Jesse Prentice-Dunn, the policy director for the Center for Western Priorities wrote:
“For four years, the Trump administration cut legal corners and rushed through massive drilling and mining projects at the behest of corporations,” Prentice-Dunn wrote. “Now the Biden administration is rightfully attempting to take stock of the damage and make sure the agency is following the law, instead of rubber-stamping destructive projects that were in the pipeline.”
“Once Deb Haaland is confirmed as interior secretary, she’ll be able to take long-term actions to make sure the interior department prioritizes communities and conservation, not extractive industry lobbyists.”
American Petroleum Institute (API) and Western Energy Alliance have criticized the move.
“With this move, the administration is leading us toward more reliance on foreign energy from countries with lower environmental standards and risks to hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in government revenue for education and conservation programs,” API said.
“We stand ready to engage with the Biden administration on ways to address America’s energy challenges, but impeding American energy will only serve to hurt local communities and hamper America’s economic recovery,” API’s president and CEO Mike Sommers told The Hill.
It’s estimated that federal lands and waters account for about 25% of the US’ crude oil output, both critical to energy output but also the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.