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Sens. Romney, Lee rebuke President Biden moratorium on gas leasing

Sens Mike Lee (left) and Mitt Romney (right) (US Senate)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Utah Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee joined 22 other Republican senators in introducing legislation that would halt President Joe Biden from enacting his proposed moratorium on federal oil and gas leasing. The president’s move is one of several bold climate change pledges Mr. Biden made during his campaign. 

GOP senators introduced the Protecting our Wealth of Energy Resources (POWER) Act of 2021 that would prohibit President Biden from blocking energy leasing on federal lands without Congressional approval. 

“The economic impacts of the suspension of oil and gas leasing on federal lands will be devastating to Utah’s rural communities, tribes, and small businesses,” Romney said in a statement. “And they will be detrimental to Utah’s energy industry, which is struggling to stay afloat and keep Utahns employed during the pandemic. Long-term decisions or pauses to energy leases should be considered and approved by Congress, not by the stroke of a pen through executive order.”

President Biden moratorium seeks to halt energy leasing

It’s not entirely clear what President Biden’s ban would entail. Although it blocks future energy leasings on federal land, it permits those already in progress to continue. 

Despite complaints from GOP senators that the moratorium would eliminate needed jobs in rural areas, President Biden argued it would pave the way for increased jobs in the green industry — another promise he made along the presidential campaign trail.

“Today is climate day in the White House which means today is jobs day at the White House,” Mr. Biden said Wednesday as he signed a slew of executive orders aimed toward elevating climate change measures.

Utah senators rebuke executive order

Lee, who has been outspoken about the proposed change, rebuked Mr. Biden, noting he would “kill jobs” and incite “considerable damage” to Utah. 

“Jobs will be lost. Families will be forced to relocate. Thriving communities will lose their means to continue. And to achieve what?” he wrote in a statement. “Advocates of these polices argue that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced. Nothing could be further from the truth. People around the world who use American fuel will still drive on roads and heat their homes. Countries like Saudi Arabia or Russia will easily make up for lost production but with greater impact to the environment.”

Congress can revoke a presidential executive order if the powers enacted are only under congressional authority. However, if the president disagrees with the changes made, Mr. Biden can veto future legislation. 

If Congress passes the POWER Act of 2021, it would require Congressional approval for President Biden to halt oil and gas leasing on federal lands.