Senator Seeks Details on Interior’s 2023-28 Draft Proposed Leasing Program at Appropriations Hearing

071322 Interior Approps
VIDEO: Senator Hyde-Smith Questions Interior Secretary on Future OCS Leases.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today remained wary of the proposed five-year offshore leasing program offered by the Biden administration after Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland wouldn’t rule out not having any lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hyde-Smith questioned Haaland during a Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to review the FY2023 budget request for the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“The Biden administration, despite its rhetoric, has been consistently antagonistic toward domestic oil and gas production even as high energy prices affect every aspect of American life,” Hyde-Smith said following the hearing.  “It’s worrisome that the Interior Secretary couldn’t or wouldn’t reject not having any lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico.”

On July 1, Haaland announced a proposed National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program that proposed no lease sales or up to 10 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and a single optional sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet between 2023 and 2028.  For comparison, a 2018 Bureau of Ocean Energy Management plan proposed 47 lease sales in 2019 to 2024.

When asked by Hyde-Smith if there was a chance the Interior Department could break precedent and exercise the option to hold zero lease sales, Haaland said she could not prejudge what the final five-year lease plan might be, but suggested her agency would take a “balanced approach.”

“Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas has lower greenhouse gas intensities than fossil fuels used to substitute for energy not produced in the Gulf.   Importing foreign energy also increases emissions because other countries sending us these resources have lower emissions standards than we do.  Are you aware that a no-sale option could, in fact, increase the price of all energy: oil, natural gas, coal, and electricity?” Hyde-Smith asked.

Haaland was equally unforthcoming in providing details on what actions the Interior Department is taking to prepare for preleasing activities, such as Area Identification, NEPA Review, Environmental Impact Statements, and consultations that would allow work to begin as quickly as possible once a lease sale is finalized.  Instead, she again placed the blame for her agency’s slow progress on the previous administration.

Hyde-Smith, a consistent critic of the Biden administration’s energy policies, last pressured Haaland at a hearing in May to explain the administration’s resistance to oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, and its failure to meet legal requirements to plan future sales over the next five years.