GOP senators propose bill to block Biden energy orders

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., introduced a bill to prohibit any president or federal agency from blocking energy or mineral leasing permits on federal lands without congressional scrutiny. The bill has 23 Republican cosponsors.

The proposed legislation comes after President Joe Biden issued over 30 executive orders in his first week in office, more than any president in history, the New York Post reports.

The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate or make it to the president’s desk, which if it did, would likely result in a veto.

The Protecting our Wealth of Energy Resources (POWER) Act of 2021 prohibits the president and secretaries of three federal agencies – Interior, Agriculture and Energy – from blocking energy or mineral leasing and permitting on federal lands and waters without congressional approval.

“As America continues to recover from a global pandemic, our energy industry desperately needs the Biden administration’s support, not its scorn. We must work to prevent any administration from crippling our energy industry without approval from Congress,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a cosponsor of the bill, said in a statement.

Biden last week signed an executive order prohibiting the issuing of new mining and energy leasing on federal lands. One day after he took office, the Department of the Interior issued a 60-day suspension of issuing new leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

Biden’s orders, Lummis says, “would be nothing short of catastrophic for western states that are already reeling from the decline in energy usage brought on by the pandemic and continued volatility in energy markets. It’s a one-two punch that means disaster for energy jobs, families, and communities.”

Biden said his administration has a “concrete” plan to address the industry’s job losses by creating “more than a quarter million jobs to do things like plug the millions of abandoned oil and gas wells” that pose a health and safety threat to communities.

“They’re abandoned wells that are open now, and we’re going to put people to work. They’re not going to lose jobs in these areas; they’re going to create jobs,” he said.

Biden’s top environmental policy adviser, former senator, presidential candidate and secretary of state John Kerry, said the plan will ensure that energy industry workers “have better choices” in jobs that “pay better” and are “cleaner,” suggesting that people could become a solar power technician instead of a miner.

He said there is “a lot of money to be made” in the creation of “healthier” jobs in sectors like green hydrogen, geothermal heat and other renewables.

A study published by energy consulting firm OnLocation found that Biden’s ban would result in the loss of nearly 1 million jobs by 2022 and cause U.S. households to spend in total $19 billion more in energy costs by 2030.

Denver-based Western Energy Alliance sued the administration over the ban and House Republican leaders and four House Democrats from Texas have called on Biden to revoke his order.

Bloomberg Government reports the administration has already revoked 70 previously approved permits.

“The Biden administration is yanking scores of drilling permits that were issued by agency workers without the approval of political appointees despite a temporary order for such reviews,” Bloomberg reports. “The Interior Department on Friday notified affected oil and gas producers that roughly 70 permits were improperly issued and the companies need to seek new approvals.”

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance said, “President Biden’s own Interior Department has contradicted the statements from just Wednesday’s White House climate press conference promising that his leasing ban would not affect existing leases. By revoking 70 drilling permits that have been in the works for months, the Interior Department is demonstrating how President Biden’s ill-advised leasing ban has immediate impacts on existing leases and the western workers and state budgets that depend on that development.

“Besides the undeniable impact on existing leases of these 70 revoked permits, a leasing ban affects existing leases in other not-so-obvious ways,” she adds. “The leasing ban will affect existing projects awaiting adjacent leases. Sometimes a tribal, state, or private horizontal well cannot avoid federal minerals that lie along its underground lateral.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order directing state agencies to find ways to protect Texas oil industry workers and sue the Biden administration when appropriate.

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