At Hearing, Senator Challenges Interior Sec. on Complying with Federal Ruling to Resume Lease Sales

072121 ENR DOI Budget Hearing
VIDEO:  Senator Hyde-Smith Questions Interior Secretary on Offshore Energy Production.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today expressed dissatisfaction with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s lack of action to resume offshore energy leasing activities after a federal court overruled President Biden’s executive order “pausing” new lease sales.

Hyde-Smith asked Haaland about compliance with the federal ruling on lease sales during an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing to review the FY2022 budget request for the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“I am deeply dissatisfied with inaction and lack of response from the Interior Department when it comes to following the law and court orders regarding offshore oil and gas leases,” Hyde-Smith said following the hearing.

“A federal court judge ruled President Biden’s ‘pause’ on new leases unlawful, yet the Secretary and the Department are unclear on whether the lease ban is still in place or when they might act to resume lease sales.  This is dissatisfying not only because it does not follow the law, but because these tactics will increasingly affect more and more families who rely on offshore energy production for their livelihoods,” she said.

Hyde-Smith questioned Haaland about a pending interim report on the oil and gas leasing ban, compliance with the federal court decision reversing the Biden oil and gas lease moratorium, and the outlook for the Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 257—a lease sale paused since March.

Hyde-Smith, a consistent critic of the Biden administration’s antagonistic approach to U.S. oil and gas production, said she will continue to pressure Haaland and administration officials to support responsible fossil fuel production.

“It is concerning to me that many of the questions and concerns we’ve raised over the past few months still lack answers today,” Hyde-Smith said.  “Right now, this committee and my constituents need answers.  This is an issue that deserves greater transparency.”

Overall, the Biden administration has requested a 17 percent budget increase for the Interior Department in FY2022.  In contrast, the President only recommends a 1.6 percent increase for Defense and a .2 percent increase for Homeland Security.