- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 28, 2021

President Biden has united Republicans with his oil-and-gas crackdown — they’re against it — but his aggressive orders have created a bind for Democratic governors in states feeling the heat over his drilling freeze on federal lands and waters.

In Colorado, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis praised Mr. Biden as “a president that believes in science” and “cleaner energy” while making it clear that the moratorium on new oil-and-gas leases on federal lands and waters signed Wednesday cannot last forever.

“We will also work closely with the Biden administration as they begin a program-wide review of energy development policy on public lands to ensure that it works for Colorado,” said Mr. Polis. “And as long as the review is completed expeditiously we don’t expect an economic impact in the short-term with current market factors and the many existing unused leases and permits.”

Coloradans have reason to be concerned: Without new federal leases, the state would lose 18,000 jobs and place $108 million in state revenue by 2022, according to the American Petroleum Institute-Colorado.

An Interior Department order issued last week placed a 60-day freeze on agency permit approvals, but the leasing “pause” for a “rigorous review of all existing leasing and permitting practices related to fossil fuel development on public lands and waters” has no timeline.

“Without any timeline or direction, President Biden’s indefinite pause on oil and natural gas leasing will have dire consequences,” said Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “Out-of-sight and out-of-mind is not a sound long-term environmental strategy.”

Colorado Republicans were quick to tether the Biden orders to Mr. Polis and Sen. Michael Bennett, Colorado Democrat.

“It is shameful that Gov. Polis and Senator Bennet won’t stand up and fight for Colorado’s energy workers,” said Colorado GOP spokesman Joe Jackson. “The Biden-Harris administration’s anti-energy agenda will cost Colorado thousands of jobs, billions in lost tax revenue, and substantially raise energy costs on hardworking families.”

No state may have more to lose from the Biden energy orders than New Mexico, which relies on its booming oil-and-gas sector to fund about one-third of its state budget. The revenue has allowed the state to offer residents benefits such as free tuition at community colleges despite its high poverty rate.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday that she would “work closely with the Biden Administration to ensure the development of a balanced national policy that acknowledges and incorporates the important lessons from an all-of-the-above energy state like ours.”

A Wyoming Energy Authority study released last year found that New Mexico stood to lose nearly $1 billion per year from a moratorium on oil-and-gas leasing.

“We simply could not be able to accomplish some of the great policy achievements we’ve seen over the last two years, such as increasing teacher pay, providing universal access to preschool for all New Mexicans, or providing free college to all New Mexicans without the revenue from the oil-and-gas industry,” said Ryan Flynn, president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.

Mr. Flynn emphasized his point on a press call hosted by the American Petroleum Institute by inviting Jessica Sanders, the 2019 New Mexico Teacher of the Year, who ticked off the statistics.

“Oil and gas is the greatest economic contributor in New Mexico with over 134,000 jobs,” she said. “These are the jobs of my friends, my community members and my students’ parents. Oil and gas in New Mexico funds $1.37 billion for education. That money funds teacher jobs, curriculum, everything related to education in my state.”

Ms. Grisham said she was “reviewing these orders to evaluate the scope of the impact they will have on our state.”

“As I said, I look forward to working with the federal administration to make sure New Mexico is protected and secure,” the governor said.

Larry Behrens, Western states director of Power the Future, called her response “weak,” accusing her of being too deferential to the Biden White House.

“The governor spent a good part of 2020 auditioning for a job in Biden’s administration and now that she’s been snubbed, she could very well be looking ahead to 2022,” said Mr. Behrens. “Governor Lujan Grisham has largely ignored Biden’s orders instead offering a vague statement which is an extremely weak response.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is a Republican, but he said he planned to contact New Mexico officials on the leasing moratorium.

“It’s not just West Virginia. New Mexico is in the crosshairs right now,” Mr. Morrisey said on Fox News. “I’m going to reach out to folks in New Mexico and some of the other states that are disproportionately affected in terms of federal lands.”

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, another Democrat in an oil-and-gas state, said he plans to speak with Mr. Biden about his clampdown.

“Obviously we’re concerned about any moratorium that would affect the Gulf,” Mr. Bel Edwards said Wednesday in a radio interview, as shown on WDSU-TV. “There are many reasons why production activities in the gulf are much better for the environment than production activities elsewhere, and so we want to have a good discussion with him.”

More energized was Tyler Gray, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, who warned that there was “not a parish in our state that doesn’t benefit in some way from the impacts of the industry.”

“It’s abundantly clear that banning energy development on fed lands and waters will stifle Louisiana’s economic growth, threaten thousands of high paying jobs and undermine our environmental progress,” said Mr. Gray.

He emphasized that oil-and-gas revenue funds not only schools and local governments, but a hefty percentage of coastal hurricane protection and conservation efforts.

The narrative that we must choose between energy and environment is fundamentally flawed,” Mr. Gray said. “In Louisiana, we know we don’t have to choose.”

Mr. Biden’s climate and energy moves include orders to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and cancel the cross-border permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Mr. Polis and Ms. Grisham made the point that their states already have been active in tightening emissions standards and promoting renewable energy.

In Colorado, Mr. Polis suggested that “the state’s longstanding leadership in the clean energy economy and the conservation of our vast great outdoors can serve as valuable examples to the new federal administration as they tackle these critical issues.”

In New Mexico, “the governor has been pushing some very aggressive and ambitious proposals, and industry is stepping up to meet those aggressive pushes and work together,” Mr. Flynn said. “It’s not just words. The industry isn’t just talking a good game. Right here in New Mexico, we’re stepping up.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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