Friday after Thanksgiving—a day the federal government notoriously reserves for dropping politically inexpedient information—activists were blindsided by a long-anticipated reportThe US Department of the Interior. The document was a review of the agency’s oil and gas leasing program, which manages fossil fuel extraction on federal public lands and waters.
Climate activists hoped that the Biden administration would propose a ban on federal oil and gas leasing. Although the report recommends a major overhaul of the leasing system many environmentalists think it is weak on climate action. They believe that Interior’s recommendations signaled an unwillingness to take bold steps to address the urgency of the climate crisis.
“We’re sympathetic to the political gantlet the Biden administration must run,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center, in a statement. “But it had a choice to run it with power, speed and agility. Instead, it’s running that gantlet weak, slow, and tentative.”
Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians, director for the climate and environment program, said that the report didn’t call for a halt in new oil-and-gas leasing. Instead, it focused on increasing royalty rates on existing leases. “The fact that it applies to new leases signals new oil and gas development,” he said. “The department seems to be signaling that it wants to do everything it can to keep the oil and gas industry going. That is not a climate solution.”