President Joe Biden signed an executive order last week temporarily suspending oil and gas drilling on federal lands, but after backlash from American Indian tribes, he decided to grant exemptions to fossil-fuel-producing reservations.
Biden’s order strips the Interior Department of its authority to issue drilling leases and permits, which appears to be the first step toward Biden’s campaign pledge to ban new drilling on federal property permanently.
Several tribes blasted Biden for stripping them of their sovereignty by taking away their livelihood.
The Ute Indian Tribe in Utah sent a letter to acting U.S. Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega last week urging Biden to reconsider or to grant them an exemption.
“Your order is a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination,” Luke Duncan, chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee, wrote. “Indian lands are not federal public lands. Any action on our lands and interests can only be taken after effective tribal consultation. “
The tribe produces about 45,000 barrels of crude oil per day in the Uintah basin, along with about 900 million cubic feet per day of natural gas, according to Reuters.
Biden granted the tribe’s exemption this week and expanded it to all American Indian tribes that work in the oil industry.
However, the 60-day suspension still applies to the rest of the oil and gas industry, which could devastate thousands of blue collar workers.
— Grant Stinchfield (@stinchfield1776) January 28, 2021
“This action perpetuates the very discord between rural and urban Americans that the President [Joe Biden] spoke out against in his inauguration speech. Although it is routine for an incoming administration to pause high-level agency decisions while agency leaders get into place, such a widespread suspension of routine permitting decisions normally made in the field is unprecedented,” Utah’s all-Republican top political leadership said in a joint statement.
Biden’s order will exacerbate job losses in the energy sector, which was already hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, Utah’s leadership continued.
“The economic impacts of this decision will be felt nationwide and couldn’t come at a worse time for Utah’s rural communities, tribes, and small businesses,” the leaders said. “We are eager to work with his administration to improve management of our public lands, but gratuitously punishing our rural economy is not helpful.”