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Review of U.S. federal oil, gas leasing program being finalized

The Biden administration stopped holding government drilling auctions, but a judge last month ruled the freeze unlawful

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON, July 27 (Reuters) – A highly anticipated review by the U.S. Interior Department of the federal oil and gas leasing program is undergoing final internal review and should be released “very soon,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

President Joe 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 and rapidly slashing greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade to fight climate change.

Haaland had said previously that the review would be completed by “early summer.”

The Biden administration earlier this year stopped holding government drilling auctions, pending the review, but a federal judge last month ruled that his leasing freeze was unlawful.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, a Republican, asked Haaland at the Senate energy committee hearing whether the Interior Department would reschedule two lease sales that would have taken place in the first two quarters of the year.

She did not comment on what the department plans to do with those lease sales because of ongoing litigation.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Franklin Paul and Dan Grebler)

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