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ICYMI: Wall Street Journal: Biden’s Fossil-Fuel Freeze

Any doubt that the Biden Administration plans to slowly regulate fossil fuels out of existence vanished this week. First came the Keystone XL pipeline kill, but perhaps more significant is the 60-day freeze on new leases on federal lands and bureaucratic permitting. The pause could soon become a long-term ban.



Federal lands account for about 22% of U.S. oil production, 12% of natural gas and 40% of coal. When the Obama Administration slowed oil and gas permitting on federal land, drilling and exploration shifted to private land. The Biden Administration may shut that down too.



Start with the 60-day suspension on new leases on federal land. Producers in older oil and gas fields won't be significantly affected, and many have already scaled back investment in places like California and Louisiana while pouring more into shale. But shale fracking occurs in large part on federal land in western states, and it continually requires new leases and investment.



Federal land accounts for 51.9% of New Mexico's oil production and 66.8% of its natural gas, as well as a sizable share of gas extraction in Colorado (41.6%), Utah (63.2%) and Wyoming (92.1%). A federal leasing ban would cost some 18,000 jobs in Colorado, 33,000 in Wyoming and 62,000 in New Mexico by 2022, according to the American Petroleum Institute.



States would also lose hundreds of millions of dollars of mineral royalties that are shared by the feds. Oil and gas revenue accounts for 20% of New Mexico's budget. Downstream suppliers like fracking sand mines in Wisconsin and steel manufacturers in Pennsylvania would also be hit.



The Biden Administration has also essentially frozen new fossil-fuel investment on private land with an order prohibiting career officials from signing off on easements, right of ways, environmental reviews, and resource management plans for 60 days. This ensures nothing gets done until the Senate confirms his political appointees, who can then issue formal rules and regulation to shut down production.



Meanwhile, President Biden is tapping a deep well of green activists who don't need Senate confirmation to run the Interior Department on a day-to-day basis. Consider Marissa Knodel, who will serve as a new adviser to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.



An Interior press release describes her as "a passionate advocate for climate and environmental justice through a just and equitable transition to a clean energy-based society, and resilient adaptation to a changing climate." She was previously legislative counsel with Earthjustice advising on federal onshore, offshore, and Arctic oil and gas leasing regulation and "managed a campaign at Friends of the Earth to stop new fossil fuel development on federal lands and waters." Now she'll manage that campaign from a position of power inside the government.



Progressives accused Trump appointees of ignoring government scientists merely because they considered the economic impact of regulation. Mr. Biden is explicitly sidelining government scientists to put progressive activists in charge. This is getting little media attention because most of the press agrees with the Biden agenda. But any company producing any fossil fuels can expect to become a target of a federal regulatory onslaught.

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