Offshore oil and gas plan to be released by June

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The process of establishing which federal waters will be available for oil and gas leasing has lagged, casting uncertainty over the future of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The current offshore drilling plan is due to expire on June 30.

Testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Haaland attributed the delay to the lack of work done under the Trump administration, as well as ongoing litigation over offshore drilling.

“The previous administration had stopped work in 2018 on the new five-year plan, so there was a lot to catch up on,” she said. “As we take this next step, we will follow the science and the law, as we always do. This requires a robust and transparent review process.”

RELATED: Delays in federal oil leases cast uncertainty on the Gulf

The announcement comes as the Biden administration has delayed offshore leasing as it seeks to better understand the impact on climate change.

Biden put a pause on such rental sales shortly after taking office in 2021, a move that was later ruled illegal by a federal judge in Louisiana.

After hosting a lease sale for the Gulf last year, the Department of the Interior announced last week that it was canceling upcoming lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, drawing criticism from Republicans and some Democrats.

To open Wednesday’s hearing, Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.V., said he was skeptical the Biden administration intended to pursue oil and gas leasing.

“I’m sorry to say that it has become clear to me that the break (on the rental) is actually a ban,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have no reason to believe that a new five-year plan will be created in time this summer.”

As the Interior now moves forward with releasing a plan, the question will be how much offshore area they are actually making available for drilling.

The announcement drew skepticism from the oil and gas industry, which has repeatedly clashed with the Biden administration over offshore oil and gas leasing.

“It’s an announcement that there will be another announcement,” said Erik Milito, president of the National Offshore Industries Association trade group. “Interior was given 16 months to fulfill its legal obligation to develop and maintain an offshore oil and gas leasing program and it failed.”

During the hearing, Halaand declined to say whether or not the Home Office plans to include rental sales in the five-year plan.

“We take this responsibility seriously and do not prejudge an outcome,” she said. “It’s my job to manage and conserve all of our public lands for every American. These things are all taken into consideration given the climate crisis we find ourselves in.”

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