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U.S. oil and gas leasing review to be released in 'early summer' -official

05/28/2021 | 03:23pm EDT

May 28 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden's administration expects to release results of its review of the federal oil and gas leasing program by early summer, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said on Friday.

Biden announced the review shortly after taking office in what was widely viewed as a first step to fulfilling his campaign promise of banning new federal drilling leases to fight climate change.

Lease auctions have been paused in the meantime, upsetting the oil and gas industry and the state governments that host it, who argue the move risks killing jobs and hurting the economy.

"The oil and gas review is in process right now," Haaland said on a call with reporters to discuss the department's budget request.

"Everyone's been working really hard on it. We expect to have it released in early summer."

Haaland did not say how long the pause on lease auctions could last.

Some 25% of U.S. oil and gas production comes from federal lands and waters. The Biden review is intended to weigh the economic benefits of federal drilling against its environmental and climate costs.

Haaland's remarks came as the department detailed large increases in spending proposed by the White House https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-budget-put-price-tag-policy-priorities-earn-likely-republican-rebuke-2021-05-28 on measures to address climate change, including wildfire mitigation and preparedness, permitting renewable energy projects on public lands and cleaning up abandoned fossil fuel infrastructure.

The proposal for fiscal 2022 represents an increase of $2.5 billion, or 17%, over the enacted Interior budget for this year. It includes nearly $2 billion in new climate-related investments, the department said.

The budget must be approved by Congress before taking effect.

Also on the call, Laura Daniel-Davis, principal deputy assistant secretary for land and mineral management, said Interior's oil and gas programs would "continue to be an essential part of the work of the agency."

Asked about how the agency's defense of some fossil fuel and mining projects in litigation with environmental groups squared with Biden's climate goals, Haaland declined to comment.

"I can't comment in specificity because this is under active litigation," Haaland said. "What I can tell you is that this budget reflects a sincere commitment to addressing climate impacts." (Reporting by Nichola Groom Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)

ę Reuters 2021
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