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ND Group: Biden Moratorium on Oil Leases "Good Step"

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President Joe Biden has set a goal of eliminating pollution from fossil fuels in the power sector by 2035, and from the U.S. economy overall by 2050. (Adobe Stock)
President Joe Biden has set a goal of eliminating pollution from fossil fuels in the power sector by 2035, and from the U.S. economy overall by 2050. (Adobe Stock)
January 28, 2021

BISMARCK, N.D. -- President Joe Biden has placed a freeze on new oil and gas leases on public lands and waters.

A North Dakota conservation group hopes the moratorium will result in a productive evaluation of regulations, so future projects will have minimal impact on natural resources.

Biden's action coincides with a host of orders he's signed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The administration cited "irresponsible leasing" and the effects on surrounding communities.

Scott Skokos, executive director of the Dakota Resource Council, said while it's clear this is temporary and existing projects aren't affected, it's a good step.

"It's a good time to press the pause button from the previous administration, which kind of, in a lot of ways, pushed drilling on federal lands pretty quickly," Skokos asserted.

But the moratorium has drawn sharp criticism from the oil and gas industry, as well as GOP lawmakers and governors from states with high energy production.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, has called the plan "anti-American," saying it will raise energy costs and eliminate opportunities for good-paying jobs.

Skokos added it's important for the Biden administration to follow-up on these orders, and not let the flurry of activity lose momentum.

"That's our hope, and if they don't do that, we'll hold them accountable," Skokos stated. "If they do, do that, we'll be supportive."

Beyond existing projects being exempt, the moratorium also does not apply to tribal lands. But last week, Biden revoked the presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which saw heavy opposition from South Dakota tribal leaders.

Biden is under pressure to take similar action against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Disclosure: Dakota Resource Council contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, and Rural/Farming. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND