WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Jan. 20, acting Secretary of the Interior Scott de la Vega issued a “temporary suspension of delegated authority” to department bureaus and offices, “for the purpose of implementing a targeted and time-limited elevation of relevant decisions at the Department of the Interior for the purposes of reviewing the questions of fact, law, and policy they raise.”
The order outlines the suspension of authority for specific areas of the department and describes how department bureaus will continue their existing operations. The order suspends land sales, the approval of operations plans under the General Mining Law of 1872, ground-disturbing activities, onshore or offshore fossil fuel leases, permits, or agreements to drill, and other agency regulations for 60-days.
Wyoming delegates, Sen. John Barrasso, Sen. Cynthia Lummis, Rep. Liz Cheney, and Governor Mark Gordon all spoke out against the order, specifically, the 60-day suspension of onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling leases. The order does not limit existing operations under valid leases.
Senators Barrasso spoke about how this suspension of leases will hurt Wyoming workers. “When it comes to energy policy, the Biden administration is off to a divisive and disastrous start,” said Barrasso. “Wyoming and other western states have oil and gas lease sales scheduled. Several of these lease sales will be held in the next sixty days. Slowing these projects down will kill jobs for hardworking Americans and reduce a critical source of revenue to states like Wyoming. As the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, President Biden is handing out pink slips on day one. The decision to try to halt these projects without process is not just ill-advised, it’s illegal. The Department of the Interior has a legal obligation to act on drilling permit applications after ten days. Staff memos cannot override the law.”
Sen. Lummis echoed this sentiment, vowing to introduce new legislation to overturn the suspension. In a press release, Lummis said, “This unilateral action will kill jobs, raise gas and energy prices, and further harm our ability to fund our schools, roads, hospitals, and other critical infrastructure. The price of this ban is simply one the people of Wyoming cannot afford. I will be introducing legislation with my colleagues in the coming days to stop this misguided action and ensure a future role for our nation’s abundant energy resources.”
Cheney spoke of the impacts the lease suspension would have on oil and gas production. “This order from the Biden/Harris Administration is deeply misguided and would have severe ramifications in Wyoming. At a time when we need to be doing everything possible to support our energy producers and our economy, prohibiting BLM offices from leasing and permitting will negatively impact so many hard-working families who rely on the national treasures in our state to make a living,” said Cheney.
Governor Mark Gordon released a similar statement that said, “The Department of Interior’s Secretarial Order temporarily suspending nearly all activities related to leasing and other activities of the Department of the Interior is unnecessary, punitive and contrary to President Biden’s pledge to unify our nation and get people back to work. At a time when we need to come together, this action only irritates wounds that have barely begun to heal.”