The fossil-fuel expansion could help pass climate legislation down the line — or lock in more emissions.

By Zoya Teirstein, Grist

In 2020, at a campaign event in New Hampshire, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden made a promise to voters. “No more drilling on federal lands, period,” he said. “Period, period, period.”

Last week, Biden broke that promise. His administration announced it was opening up public land to new oil and gas leases, several months after suspending those types of leases.

Trans-Alaskan oil pipeline in the north slope of alaska

Biden officials have a handy excuse for the reversal. In the summer of 2021, a federal judge in Louisiana struck down the Biden administration’s pause on new oil and gas leases on public lands. Climate advocates were furious when the White House announced the new leasing plan last week, but senior officials, citing the 2021 ruling, said their hands were tied. Biden’s new leasing plan opens up approximately 144,000 acres for new drilling, 80 percent less acreage than the Department of the Interior had originally evaluated for leasing. It also hikes up royalty rates on new leases from 12.5 percent to 18.75 percent. The Biden administration tried to balance its leasing move by releasing a report yesterday that shows it is on course to produce enough renewable energy to power roughly 9.5 million homes by 2025. Some climate activists weren’t sold.

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