Houston — The US Interior Department on Jan. 20 put new oil and gas lease sales and permits on federal lands and waters on hold for 60 days, according to an order signed by Acting Secretary Scott de la Vega.
The decision gives the Biden administration more time to develop its longer-term plans on oil and gas leases that could involve a broader ban. The order does not impact drilling and activity on existing leases and permits.
The moratorium is for 60 days from Jan. 20 and would presumably provide a window for Biden’s Interior secretary nominee, US Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, to get confirmed by the Senate.
Haaland’s own New Mexico and the US Gulf of Mexico are the most exposed regions from a leasing ban. A majority of the Permian Basin’s extension into New Mexico is on federal land, while the Permian in Texas is entirely on unaffected private lands. Other impacted states would include Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, California, Utah and others.
The moratorium would still allow for some permitting approvals to be made by high-level staff. It was not immediately clear if a March 17 Gulf of Mexico lease sale scheduled by the Trump administration would be canceled. The Interior Department did not immediately reply to questions seeking to clarify.
A moratorium on new leasing was a Biden campaign pledge, but in a slew of more than 15 executive orders signed on Inauguration Day, the only temporary leasing moratorium signed by Biden applied to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, within the Interior Department, de la Vega quietly signed the nationwide, 60-day moratorium.