Barrasso Demands Answers on Biden’s Oil and Gas Leasing Ban

February 5, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the Interior, Scott de la Vega, demanding answers on the Biden administration’s recent orders banning new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. 

In the letter, Barrasso expressed his strong opposition to the orders imposing a moratorium on oil and gas leasing and permitting on federal lands. Barrasso posed nearly two dozen questions to the Department of the Interior on its apparently inconsistent leasing and permitting activities. Among them, he asked whether the Biden administration is favoring New Mexico and Nevada over Wyoming. 

Read the full letter with questions here and the text of the letter below. 

Dear Acting Secretary de la Vega: 

I write to express my strong opposition to two recent orders imposing a moratorium on oil and gas leasing and permitting on federal lands: Secretarial Order No. 3395 and President Biden’s Executive Order No. 14008. While administration officials have stated that these orders do not affect activities on existing leases, oil and gas producers operating on federal land in Wyoming have told me that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is failing to issue permits necessary for oil and gas production on existing leases. It has also come to my attention that BLM is proceeding with a lease sale in Nevada and a variety of permitting activities in New Mexico, which BLM is not conducting in Wyoming. It is imperative that you clarify which activities BLM will conduct under Secretarial Order No. 3395 and not treat Wyoming differently than Nevada or New Mexico. 

Section 3(g) of Secretarial Order No. 3395 states that it: “does not limit existing operations under valid leases. It also does not apply to authorizations necessary to: (1) avoid conditions that might impose a threat to human health, welfare, or safety; or (2) to avoid adverse impacts to public land or mineral resources.” On Wednesday, January 27, 2021, Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s National Climate Advisor, publicly stated that the President’s Executive Order No. 14008 “is not stopping permitting. It’s not stopping fracking.” That same day, Jennifer Granholm, whom President Biden has nominated to be Secretary of Energy, provided sworn testimony to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that, under the administration’s orders: “the licenses that currently are operating are not going to be disrupted. They will continue to operate…they can continue to permit and deploy and extract energy from.” Ms. Granholm added “the moratorium on leases is prospective. It does not apply to those who are currently operating.”

Since then, I have spoken to a number of oil and gas producers who are unable to obtain the necessary permits from BLM to produce on existing leases on federal land in Wyoming. At least one oil and gas producer has reported to me that BLM is permitting activities in New Mexico that it is not permitting in Wyoming. In addition, I have come to learn that BLM will proceed with an oil and gas lease sale in Nevada on March 9, 2021, but does not appear to have plans to proceed with a lease sale in Wyoming scheduled for March 15, 2021. To clarify the administration’s orders, provide certainty to states and oil and gas producers, and ensure that the Biden administration is not treating New Mexico or Nevada more favorably than it is treating Wyoming or other states, I ask that you answer the following questions no later than February 12, 2021. Thank you.


Background Information: 

On February 1, 2021, Barrasso wrote an op-ed in USA Today on how President Biden’s executive orders are taking a sledgehammer to Western state economies. 

On January 27, 2021, Barrasso blasted President Biden’s executive order to ban new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters and coal leasing on federal lands.