Industry: Time for oil, gas lease pause to end

A local representative for the oil and gas industry is hoping to see the imminent release of the Biden administration’s review of the federal oil and gas leasing program and a resumption of lease sales by the government.

Chelsie Miera, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, voiced a desire to see the government move forward on the issue in an interview last week while Interior Secretary Deb Haaland was in Grand Junction in part to visit the Bureau of Land Management’s national headquarters and to hear from community leaders as the administration considers moving that headquarters back to Washington, D.C.

Miera and other industry advocates sought to put a renewed focus on the leasing issue during Haaland’s time in Colorado last week. The BLM administers onshore oil and gas leasing for the government.

President Joe Biden ordered the moratorium and review of the federal leasing program in January as part of a climate-action executive order.

In June, a federal judge in Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction blocking the moratorium, saying the order applied nationwide.

The industry has been calling for a resumption of leasing. In Denver last week, Haaland said the release of the leasing program review is coming “very, very soon,” saying that the administration “promised early summer,” according to a report in E&E News.

Said Miera, “We were hopeful that when the courts ruled that it’s illegal to just ban leasing and when the secretary said she’d have her leasing report early summer, that we’d not only see lease sales but also her report.

“… I don’t know how many people who think the end of July is early summer.”

Miera said the industry hopes the leasing program starts moving forward again.

“Our women and men are ready to work at implementing necessary changes, but we need communication from (Interior and the BLM) to know what direction they’re wanting to go,” she said.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, last week also called for answers on the status of the program and lease sales. In a Denver Post guest column, she said that the “ongoing delay is creating a cloud of uncertainty” for energy workers and for communities that rely on revenues from responsible energy development.

“On the West Slope, where most of the state’s federal lands are located, oil and natural gas companies generated $133 million in tax revenue in 2019,” she wrote.

The moratorium doesn’t affect existing leases and drilling on those leases. A recent Associated Press analysis found that Interior approved about 2,500 permits to drill on public and tribal lands during the first half of the year, with New Mexico and Wyoming having the largest number of approvals but Montana, Colorado and Utah also having hundreds of approvals each. Permit approvals are on a pace not seen since the 2008 federal fiscal year, AP reported.