Prospect of electoral backlash in Texas and New Mexico over president’s drilling moratorium
US President Joe Biden’s moratorium on drilling on federal lands has prompted lawmakers within his own party to warn that the policy threatens jobs and local budgets in states dependent on fossil fuels.
The opposition in states such as Texas and New Mexico presages what is likely to be a big issue in the 2022 midterm elections, where Democrats will have to defend or contest seats in moderate congressional districts that rely on oil and gas.
It is also an early test of the Biden administration’s ability to square the demands of moderate Democrats, on whom it depends for its slim majority in the House and Senate, with those of progressives who want quick action on climate change.
In his first week in office, Biden ordered the suspension of leases for fossil fuel development on federal lands and offshore waters, and a “rigorous review” of leasing and permitting practices. He also created a civilian “climate corps”, directed federal agencies to procure American-made zero-emissions vehicles for their fleets, and scrapped a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Biden asked Congress to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.
While the initiatives pleased environmentalists, they worried Democratic members of Congress from around the Permian, the world’s most prolific oilfield, in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico.
Four Democratic House members from Texas wrote to the new president declaring: “Now is not the time to jeopardise American jobs, or the critical tax and royalty revenues that federal leases generate for local, state, and federal government that need funds now.”