Republicans unleash effort forcing Biden admin to hold oil and gas lease sales

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FIRST ON FOX: A group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., introduced a bill Friday that would require the federal government to hold regular oil and gas lease sales in an effort to shore up U.S. energy security.

The so-called Supporting Made in America Energy Act would mandate that the Department of the Interior (DOI) holds at least four annual onshore oil and gas lease sales in the top seven producing states in addition to at least two annual offshore lease sales in both the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. According to Daines, the bill would reverse the administration’s policies which have led to fewer fossil fuel lease sales on public lands and waters.

“Now more than ever, energy security is national security,” Daines said in a statement shared with Fox News Digital. “As President Biden continues to push his out-of-touch and unrealistic green agenda on the American people, I’ll continue to push for policies that bolster made-in-America energy.”

In addition to forcing the administration to resume traditional energy leasing, the Supporting Made in America Energy Act would require DOI to create wind, solar, and geothermal energy priority areas on public land.

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Steve Daines

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on January 24, 2023. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., Bill Cassidy, R-La., James Risch, R-Idaho, John Hoeven, R-Idaho, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., joined the effort Friday as cosponsors of the bill. And the seven states listed by the legislation as the top producing onshore states are Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Nevada and Alaska.

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“The Biden administration’s first nineteen months in office saw the fewest acres leased for oil and gas since World War II. It is concerning that since taking office the BLM has only held one lease sale in Montana,” Daines and fellow GOP Montana lawmakers Reps. Ryan Zinke and Matt Rosendale wrote in a June letter to the DOI.

“Despite congressionally mandated lease sales and a federal court reversal of the Biden administration’s leasing moratorium, the BLM is not offering any parcels in Montana for the upcoming competitive lease sale in June while Americans continue to face rising energy costs and persistent inflation,” they continued, adding that it is “imperative”for  the agency to prioritize domestic energy production.

Shortly after taking office in January 2021, President Biden issued a moratorium on all new oil and gas leasing, following through on a campaign promise that was part of his climate-focused platform. But, in June 2021, after the administration was sued by a group of state attorneys general, a federal court struck the moratorium down. It was permanently struck down in August 2022.

President Biden, left, issued a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing shortly after taking office. However, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, left, was forced to resume leasing after a court struck the moratorium down. (Getty Images)

Following the court rulings, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced that her agency would again proceed with fossil fuel leasing. The DOI then modified the federal oil and gas leasing program in April 2022 and ultimately held the administration’s first onshore lease sales months later. The agency was subsequently sued by environmental groups for holding the sales in a case that remains ongoing.

But the administration has pursued a pared-back oil and gas leasing program despite a legal requirement to hold quarterly lease sales. DOI was sued by energy industry groups led by the Western Energy Alliance for, despite holding the sales in 2022, not regularly holding sales in accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act.

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“It’s unfortunate that clear statutory mandates from Congress, such as the straightforward requirement in the Mineral Leasing Act that the Interior Department hold quarterly lease sales, have been simply ignored by the Biden Administration,” Kathleen Sgamma, the president of the Western Energy Alliance, said Friday, endorsing Daines’ bill.

“The fact that this bill is even necessary demonstrates how President Biden is completely comfortable violating the law. Congress shouldn’t have to keep making the same legislation, but we are certainly thankful that Senator Daines has done so with this bill,” she continued.

The American Petroleum Institute and Montana Petroleum Association also endorsed the legislation.



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