Biden moves to block oil and gas leases on public land and in New Mexico that could be a big problem

This week the Biden administration put a 60-day hold on new oil and gas leases on public lands. While this is only temporary at the moment, the expectation is that this moratorium will become permanent sometime soon. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has been paying attention because Biden promised prior to the election that he would do this. Here it is from his own climate plan page [emphasis added]:

Protecting America’s natural treasures by permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas impacted by President Trump’s attack on federal lands and waters, establishing national parks and monuments that reflect America’s natural heritage, banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, modifying royalties to account for climate costs, and establishing targeted programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewables on federal lands and waters with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030.

Today the Associated Press reports that some leaders in New Mexico are very concerned about the impact this could have on the state:

Top Republicans in the state as well as local leaders in communities that border the Permian Basin — one of the most productive regions in the U.S. — say any moves to make permanent the suspension would be economically devastating for the state. Half of New Mexico’s production happens on federal land and amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties each year…

The issue has been a thorny one for Democrats in New Mexico, where the oil and gas industry has been vilified over pollution concerns despite its role as the state’s top economic driver. Aside from funneling revenues to the state’s coffers, the industry supports about 100,000 direct and related jobs.

That’s a lot of jobs in a state with a total population of 2.3 million. In theory, the moratorium could expire in 60 days and that would be it but in addition to Biden’s campaign promise to make this ban permanent, he’s already making staffing moves which seem designed to make it happen:

Under Trump, the top offshore drilling regulator at Interior was Scott Angelle, a longtime oil industry ally and former Louisiana official who pushed for rapid permitting of Gulf of Mexico oil projects after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

By contrast, one of Biden’s first hires at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that oversees offshore oil leasing and wind farms is Marissa Knodel, a former activist with Friends of the Earth. Knodel was one of about 150 people whose rowdy protest of a bureau auction of oil drilling rights in March 2016 prompted the agency to shift subsequent oil and gas lease sales online.

Not to put too fine a point on this but Knodel’s Twitter photo is of her wearing a “Keep it in the ground” t-shirt. To be clear, she’s not in charge of these decisions but the fact that she was hired as an adviser makes it pretty clear where the Biden administration is headed.

Representatives from other states like Utah are also complaining about the moratorium, but in New Mexico’s case this seems like something of a self-inflicted wound.

They are going to get exactly what they voted for over the next four years.