Hyde-Smith questions Land and Minerals Management nominee on compliance with Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith seemed a commitment from the Biden administration, now under court order to allow offshore energy leasing, that they will not attempt to impose policies that make future leasing economically unfeasible.

Today during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, the members met to discuss the pending nominations of:

  • Ms. Laura Daniel-Davis to be an Assistant Secretary of the Interior (Land and Minerals Management);
  • Ms. Camille C. Touton to be Commissioner of Reclamation; and
  • Ms. Sara C. Bronin to be Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The Assistant Secretary of the Interior Land and Minerals Management is responsible for management of all federal lands and waters, and associated mineral and non-mineral resources.

Sen. Hyde-Smith expressed her concern to Laura Daniel-Davis over whether off shore energy production will face continued challenges under the Biden administration. Daniel-Davis had to testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as part of her confirmation process.

“For offshore leasing, there is still more to be done in order to fully comply with the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and to ensure the 5-year plan is completed before a quickly-approaching deadline,” Hyde-Smith said.  “The Gulf of Mexico is vital to our nation’s energy security by providing approximately 20 percent of America’s oil and natural gas production.”

“Congress enacted the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act primarily to facilitate the federal government’s leasing of its offshore mineral resources and energy resources.  In this law, Congress stated expressly that offshore resources ‘should be made available for expeditious and orderly development.’  Ms. Daniel-Davis, what assurances will you give us that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will not impose burdensome stipulations that make new leases economically unfeasible and therefore effectively unavailable for development, contrary to clear congressional intent?” Hyde-Smith asked.

Sen. Hyde-Smith worries that the U.S. Department of the Interior is moving ahead with lease sales due to the court order and not recognizing the significance of American-produced oil and gas.

In August, The U.S. Department of the Interior appealed a District Court preliminary injunction that stopped enforcement of President Biden’s executive order to pause all new federal oil and gas leasing.

The Department of the Interior released a statement that stated:

“The appeal of the preliminary injunction is important and necessary. Together, federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leasing programs are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and growing climate and community impacts. Yet the current programs fail to adequately incorporate consideration of climate impacts into leasing decisions or reflect the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions including, for example, in royalty rates. Furthermore, past operation of the programs did not adequately reflect the breadth of the Interior Secretary’s stewardship responsibilities, including conserving wildlife habitat, protecting historic and cultural resources, ensuring that public lands are available for multiple uses, protecting marine, coastal, and human environments, meeting trust responsibilities to American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, and providing a fair return to taxpayers. Moreover, the federal oil and gas programs inadequately account for environmental harms to lands, waters, and other resources, foster speculation by oil and gas companies, and frequently leave impacted communities out of important conversations about how they want the public lands and waters managed.”

They announced that Interior will proceed with leasing that is consistent with the district court’s injunction during the appeal. Interior declared they would exercise the authority and discretion provided under the law to conduct leasing in a manner that takes into account the program’s many deficiencies. The Department of Interior promised to continue to review the programs’ noted shortcomings, including completing a report.

The Department said that they would undertake a programmatic analysis to address what changes in the Department’s programs may be necessary in order to meet the President’s targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.