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'Unfortunate, If Not Unexpected': Biden Criticized for Resuming Public Land Drilling Permits

"We call on President Biden to keep his promise: a full and complete ban on fracking and fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Full stop."

A gas drilling rig sits in an area of southeastern Utah managed by the Bureau of Land Management. (Photo: Richer Images/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)

A gas drilling rig sits in an area of southeastern Utah managed by the Bureau of Land Management. (Photo: Richer Images/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)

After having urged President Joe Biden to turn a temporary moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters into a permanent ban on extracting climate-damaging fossil fuels from those areas, environmentalists criticized his administration's decision Monday to not renew the Interior Department's policies limiting the provision of drilling permits.

In a statement released Tuesday, Food & Water Watch policy director Mitch Jones called the news "unfortunate, if not unexpected."

"Biden ran on a promise of stopping fracking and fossil fuel extraction on public lands," said Jones. "Thus far, his orders have failed to live up that promise."

Environmental justice groups, including Food & Water Watch, applauded the president in late January for instituting a pause on new oil and gas permitting on federal lands and waters, during which administration officials would review the climate impacts of—as well as taxpayer compensation for—public lands drilling, as Common Dreams reported.

"A pause on drilling and fracking is good news, but only if it is followed by a strong plan to permanently ban all dirty energy extraction on public lands," Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said at the time.

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"The simple truth," Hauter said earlier this year, "is that we need to stop drilling and fracking everywhere, as soon as possible. The federal government has the power—and the moral responsibility—to get off fossil fuels, and doing so on publicly owned land sends a positive message that the Biden administration is serious about confronting this issue head-on."

In response to the Biden administration's decision Monday to resume processing permits for oil and gas drilling—which coincided with the Senate's confirmation of Deb Haaland, a proponent of curbing fossil fuel extraction on federal lands and waters, as Interior Secretary—Jones said Tuesday that "temporary pauses are not enough."

"Limiting those pauses to leases is not enough," he continued. "Bending to the political pressure of the fossil fuel industry is unacceptable."

"We call on President Biden to keep his promise: a full and complete ban on fracking and fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Full stop," Jones said. "The climate crisis requires it and he promised it."

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