Heinrich, Lujan Welcome Department Of Interior's Decision To Return To Standard Permitting Process For Activities On Public Lands, Including Energy Development

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) welcomed the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) decision to return to its standard permitting process for activities on public lands, including energy development, on March 21, 2021. The senators have been urging DOI to not extend its 60-day review period put in place by a January 20, 2021 secretarial order because of the negative impact it could have on New Mexico’s economy and revenues.

“We are pleased that the Department of Interior heeded our call to expeditiously complete its review of its permitting programs on public lands, including energy development and land transactions. While a temporary review period at the beginning of the new administration is reasonable, extending the review period could have led to unnecessary delays that would have a negative impact on New Mexico’s economy,” said Heinrich and Luján. “We will continue to work with our colleagues in Congress and the entire Biden administration to ensure that energy states like ours are able to make a smooth transition to a diversified economy based on clean energy and a carbon-free future. Oil and gas workers and the communities they live in have helped build our nation for more than a century, and revenues from mineral production have supported New Mexico’s educational system and state budget. It is morally imperative that we don’t leave these workers and their communities behind as we tackle the climate crisis with the urgency it requires.”

Earlier this month, Heinrich and Luján sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Acting Secretary Scott de la Vega outlining their concerns that any extension beyond the 60-day period would have significant consequences for ongoing activities on public land in New Mexico that require routine authorizations from bureaus within the Department of the Interior.

In a letter to National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, the senators have also urged the Biden administration to not make permanent its executive order that paused new leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands, and have called on the administration to complete its review and resume responsible leasing as soon as possible. 

“Though a short-term pause is fully appropriate in the new Biden administration, an extended and indefinite suspension would have significant impacts on our workforce and state funding for education and creates unnecessary uncertainty for New Mexico’s state and local tax revenues. We oppose an indefinite federal ban on oil and gas leasing, and we urge the administration to complete its review and resume responsible leasing as soon as possible,” Heinrich and Luján said.