Interior Department to Hold Forum on March 25, to Discuss Future of Federal Oil and Gas Program

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

On March 8, the DOI announced its plans to hold a virtual forum on Thursday, March 25, to discuss the federal oil and gas leasing and permitting program. The forum is the latest step in DOI’s ongoing review following President Biden’s “Climate Day” executive order that paused the issuance of all new federal oil and gas leases.

The March 25 livestream will include a range of speakers, including industry representatives, labor and environmental justice groups, natural resource advocates and others. In its announcement, DOI highlighted the greenhouse gas emissions attributed to federal oil and gas activities and noted the multitude of recent legislative efforts to regulate the industry. Consistent with prior statements intended to soften the perceived impact of the leasing moratorium, the Department’s announcement conveyed statistics on the high numbers of unused leases and permits currently held by the industry.

The forum should cover discussions on those topics and others, including the administration’s overarching plans to achieve a “clean energy future,” the role of fossil-based and clean energy sources in the country’s energy mix, transparency in the leasing and permitting process, environmental justice considerations, workers impacted by the changing energy industry and the President’s campaign pledge to plug inactive and orphaned wells.

Ultimately, the forum is just one of several steps that DOI will take over the coming months during its review of the federal oil and gas leasing program. Over the next few months, the Department also plans to seek input from Congress, governors, Native American tribes and other state and local leaders. It also will seek public comment at some point over the next month. These events will lead to the publication of an interim report in “early summer” through which DOI will summarize its discussions with stakeholders and set the stage for future regulations and the President’s legislative agenda.

As the administration moves ahead in pursuit of its aggressive climate agenda, the March 25 forum and upcoming stakeholder engagement opportunities are some of the last avenues for industry and other interested groups to learn about and influence this new era of rulemaking and legislation before it takes shape. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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