Former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt criticized the Biden administration’s proposal unveiled late last week that gutted a 2018 plan to hold dozens of offshore oil and gas lease sales.
The Department of the Interior (DOI) published a proposed five-year offshore leasing program Friday that opened the door to a complete ban on offshore leasing through 2028. The plan — which would allow a maximum of 11 total offshore lease sales in that time span — also laid waste to a Trump-era version of the same program that proposed 47 lease sales over five years.
“Since day one, this administration has put climate activism over energy independence and energy security,” Bernhardt, who was the DOI’s deputy secretary between 2017-2018 and led the agency between 2019-2021 during the Trump administration, told FOX Business in an interview Tuesday.
“What it does do is make very clear that there is a very real possibility they choose to either have no leasing or many fewer sales,” her continued. “They have been relentless in their desire to pursue climate activism over energy security for the American people, even though it’s wildly unpopular.”
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Bernhardt added that the administration likely timed the announcement before a holiday weekend to avoid criticism. The proposed program was published at 5 p.m. on Friday and came one day after the DOI missed the deadline to release the plan set by Secretary Deb Haaland during a Senate hearing in May.
He also noted that the no lease plan floated by the Biden administration wouldn’t have a sizable impact on global emissions since the U.S. would increase reliance on international energy producers for oil and natural gas to make up for declining domestic production.
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“You have to recognize that energy produced here is some of the cleanest in the world, the regulatory paradigm is the best and they’ve decided, not only that they are for climate activism, but they are more than happy to lean forward for international production of energy,” Bernhardt told Fox Business. “They just would prefer that it not take place in the United States which is an absolutely amazing position for American policymakers to take.”
“It doesn’t provide us energy security, it doesn’t provide us economic benefits and then, on top of that, it doesn’t provide the same quality of environmental protections as energy produced here,” he added.
The DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the subagency tasked with overseeing the federal offshore oil and gas leasing program, projected that, if the administration halted leasing through 2028, 57% of the lost offshore energy production would be replaced by oil imports, 24% would be replaced by increased onshore drilling and 9% would be replaced by other energy sources.
After the plan was published Friday, Haaland said that she and President Joe Biden “have made clear our commitment to transition to a clean energy economy” and the DOI highlighted that the proposal narrowed the options for future fossil fuel leasing.
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While the Biden administration plan would green-light up to 11 sales across two federal offshore planning areas, a portion of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet, the Trump administration plan’s proposed 47 sales would have been offered in 25 of the 26 planning areas including plots located in the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean.
“The Trump administration had a vision which was one of robust energy dominance, robust preservation of energy independence, and so the process started with a wide cast and would have been winnowed down as part of that process,” Bernhardt said. “That’s reflected in the law which lays out clearly that you seek comment and you get comment from states and others.”