WYOMING – Weeks after filing a lawsuit against the Biden administration regarding its federal oil and gas leasing program, Gov. Mark Gordon sat before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Tuesday to discuss Wyoming’s umbrage with the policy and the Department of Interior.
Gordon joined the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources after an invitation from ranking member Sen. John Barrasso. The committee invited multiple individuals to speak at the bipartisan meeting regarding the Interior’s onshore oil and gas leasing program as it remains under review.
Barrasso followed Committee chair Joe Manchin, D-W.V., in making opening remarks. Wyoming’s senior senator first set the stage by referring to Wyoming as the “energy capital of the United States,” because of its wealth of oil, natural gas, coal, uranium and renewables. Then he steered his remarks directly to the issue at hand.
“Today, Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West is under attack,” Barrasso said. “One of President Biden’s first actions was to ban new oil and gas leasing on federal lands. Make no mistake, this is not a pause or a review, this is a ban and currently there is no end in sight.”
He accused President Joe Biden, and the current administration, of seeking to end oil and gas leasing on federal lands because he chose Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary, who was previous on the record as opposed to oil and gas production on federal lands.
Barrasso also brought up when Haaland described the former system for oil and gas leasing program as “fundamentally broken” during her confirmation hearing, and said he disagreed with her. Also at her confirmation hearing, Haaland said the moratorium on leasing was “not going to be a permanent thing.”
Sen. Barrasso underlined the importance the oil and gas leasing program has on Wyoming, New Mexico and other Rocky Mountain states, before introducing Gov. Gordon to the committee.
Nada Culver, deputy director of policy and programs for the Bureau of Land Management, spoke as the first witness. She said her department has about 8,000 drilling permits on federal lands ready with about 5,600 more submitted for consideration. Culver also reiterated Sec. Haaland’s philosophy regarding the program.
“Fossil fuels will continue to play a role in America for years to come,” Culver said. “However, this is just one of the multiple uses for which the BLM manages public lands. Too often the extraction of resources has been rushed at the expense of people, wildlife and other uses.”
Culver ultimately said, “We simply cannot do business as we have in the past.”
Gov. Gordon followed Culver and told the committee he couldn’t talk about Wyoming without talking about coal, or the progress the state is making in terms of carbon capture technology. But he came to Washington earlier in the week because of the current administration’s “misguided” policies.
Gordon discussed the fluctuating number of active rigs drilling in the state, which currently sits at seven, after dipping as low as zero last August.
“This leasing review is a crafty way of establishing a moratorium on federal lease sales, making continued progress ever more tenuous, more difficult and more likely that good-paying, family-supporting jobs will migrate elsewhere,” Gordon said. “That is bad for this country, for the climate and especially for Wyoming.”
Gordon outlined the projected economic losses to Wyoming and other western states. He said the state has worked to minimize surface disturbances, climate pollution and natural migration corridors and habitats.
During questions, Gordon was asked by Sen. Marin Heinrich, D-N.M., why Wyoming immediately resorted to litigation against the current administration regarding leasing moratorium instead of engaging the administration.
“The reason is because the moratorium was extended and we see no end in sight,” Gordon answered. “And as contrary to what has been said here, there is still an uneven application of permissions that are being granted from the BLM, so it seemed getting clarity on this was absolutely critical.”