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Industry Pushes Back on Biden's Oil and Gas Lease Moratorium

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Industry groups warn banning new oil and gas leases on public lands will cause significant drops in state tax revenues in Wyoming and seven other western states, and lead to the loss of more than 55,000 jobs. (Snappy Goat/Pixabay)
Industry groups warn banning new oil and gas leases on public lands will cause significant drops in state tax revenues in Wyoming and seven other western states, and lead to the loss of more than 55,000 jobs. (Snappy Goat/Pixabay)
 By Eric Galatas - Producer, Contact
February 16, 2021

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- The Western Energy Alliance sued to block the Biden administration's moratorium on new oil and gas leases on public lands, but conservationists say the move is long overdue.

Jayson O'Neill, spokesperson for the watchdog group Accountable.US, said companies have been stockpiling leases on public lands for years, which has created an economic house of cards.

He worried taxpayers will again be on the hook for cleaning up and capping orphan wells when drops in prices force companies into bankruptcy.

"Oil and gas companies are taking public-land leases, buying them on the cheap, and using those leases to inflate their balance sheet so they can incur more debt," O'Neill asserted. "That isn't a sustainable business model, and that's not sustainable for taxpayers."

O'Neill contended locking up large parcels of public lands for future extraction also blunts the development of Wyoming's outdoor recreation economy.

Industry groups argued the ban will cause significant drops in state tax revenues in Wyoming and seven other western states, and lead to the loss of more than 55,000 jobs.

O'Neill pointed to the Biden administration's climate proposals, including ensuring publicly traded companies provide greater transparency on climate risks, as a step in the right direction to protect taxpayers.

He noted the administration's plans also include shovel-ready jobs that pay a living wage.

"Cleaning up used oil pads," O'Neill suggested. "Let's talk about abandoned orphan wells that we can cap, putting the people that know best how to manage those oil wells right to work tomorrow."

The American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claimed a one-size-fits-all approach to financial disclosure rules could put companies in legal jeopardy if they report inaccurate information.

O'Neill disagreed, and emphasized requiring fossil-fuel companies to disclose the financial risks of their contributions to climate change to investors is critical for building a bridge to a post-fossil fuel economy.

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