Energy Security and Jobs at Heart of Energy Fairness Comments to Biden Administration about Federal lands Oil and Gas Ban

Congress Acts to Modernize CCUS Tax Credits
April 9, 2021
Shovel Ready, Carbon-Free Energy Storage in the California Desert.
April 16, 2021

Today Energy Fairness submitted the following comments to the Department of the Interior regarding the potential ban on future oil and natural gas leases over Federal land.

15 April 2021

To whom it may concern:  

Energy Fairness respectfully submits the following comments pursuant to President Biden’s Executive Order “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” (EO 14008) and pursuant to the Department of the Interior’s forum addressing EO 14008 held on March 25, 2021.

Energy Fairness is deeply troubled by the implications of EO 14008. We believe it could put into severe doubt the long-term viability of our domestic energy security and put into serious doubt whether ALL Americans will have access to an affordable and reliable supply of energy.  Moreover, amid a pandemic, by suggesting the elimination or phasing out of future federal oil and gas leases, the Administration’s actions would slash revenues to poorer states like New Mexico, that need them the most to fund schools, infrastructure, and other vital programs.

Energy Fairness (formerly known as the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy) is a non-profit organization with a mantra to have honest conservation with consumers and policymakers concerning what is entailed in maintaining an affordable and reliable energy supply.   Energy Fairness’s governing board consists of directors from the Alabama AFL-CIO, the Wyoming Rural Electric Association, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessee River Valley Association, and the Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative.  

Since our inception more than a decade ago, we have addressed a range of issues about the affordability and reliability of the U.S. domestic energy supply with a particular focus on the continued availability of an affordable domestic supply of oil and natural gas, particularly on federal lands.  

We are very concerned about the effect EO 14008 would have on our nation’s oil and gas industry’s ability to sustain long-term production of these must-have commodities if the Department of the Interior institutes a ban on future federal oil and gas leases.   

For more than the last five months, we’ve expressed this concern in a series of op-eds published in various local and regional newspapers throughout the Intermountain West states of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming.   These op-eds highlighted the incredible strides that the U.S. has taken to increase oil and natural gas extraction in terms of advancements in exploration and production techniques.   According to the Energy and Information Administration, U.S. crude oil production more than doubled from just under six million barrels a month in 2011 to more than 12 million barrels a month in 2020.     

These production numbers finally pointed to a future where the U.S. wasn’t partially shackled to the instability and war-torn Middle East for a significant amount of its energy supply.   Indeed, the production looked so bright that President Obama signed into law on December 18, 2015, a repeal of the 40-year old Crude oil export ban.  

With all this potential to achieve victory and rid ourselves from the whims of the Oil Producing Export Countries (OPEC), Energy Fairness is very concerned that in pursuing a ban on future oil and gas leases, we are “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” Moreover, is this move by the Administration just the “camel’s nose under the tent” when it comes to the domestic curtailment of an affordable and reliable oil and gas supply? What’s next?  More regulatory hurdles for permitting and constructing the pipeline infrastructure needed to deliver this energy to industrial and residential consumers.

The questions we don’t need to be answered ask what dire economic impact a ban on future federal oil and gas leases would have on the economies of states that depend on these revenues the most.  We know the answer.  Take New Mexico, for instance.   At 18.2%, New Mexico has the 3rd highest poverty rate in the nation and just under double the national average of 10.5%.  

Even more unacceptable, and quite frankly unbelievable, is that more than one in four New Mexico children lives in poverty at 26.3%. That’s the highest in the nation!   According to DOI’s Office of Natural Resource Revenue, New Mexico received just under $707 million in revenues from oil and gas production on Federal lands from within the state.  

Maybe the potential loss of these staggering revenues is what prompted New Mexico’s 2019 Teacher of the Year, Jessica Sanders, to state in a recent Albuquerque Journal op-ed that “Oil and gas in New Mexico have provided a critical $1.37 billion for education, accounting for over one-third of the state’s education budget… if a federal leasing ban becomes permanent, New Mexican students will suffer.”

Sadly, Jessica is correct, but it’s not just New Mexico’s students who will suffer.   All Americans will suffer as our access to the bountiful supply of affordable oil and natural gas on Federal lands is put into question through the short-sightedness espoused in EO 14008.

Other states throughout the U.S. also stand to lose significant tax revenue for conservation funding if the DOI persists with its ban on federal leasing.  In addition to New Mexico, the DOI announced in March the disbursement of $249 Million in fiscal year 2020 to the Gulf states of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi for coastal conservation, among other critical programs.  DOI admirably boasted that the “action represents the second-largest disbursement since the Department first began disbursing [Gulf of Mexico energy] revenues” since 2009.  Yet all of this revenue could dry up with a pause or moratorium on federal leasing for any period of time.

For additional reference, I have included Energy Fairness op-eds that have appeared in the Las Cruces Sun, the Greeley Tribune, and the Casper Star-Tribune, discussing similar themes addressed in these comments.