The Biden administration quietly updated a federal database showing how many unused oil and gas drilling permits it has approved, reducing the number by more than 2,000.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revised the current number of approved applications for permits to drill (APD) — which oil and gas companies are required to file once they identify a deposit on a lease that can be tapped — down from an estimated 9,000 to less than 6,700. The BLM, a subagency of the Department of the Interior (DOI), blamed the revision on a Trump-era technical change that it hadn’t properly accounted for.
“As of February 2023, companies have over 6,600 approved and unused drilling permits available on federal lands,” the BLM said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “This number has been updated to account for a reporting discrepancy resulting from a transition to a new database in mid-2020.”
The change suggests that President Biden and administration officials had overstated the extent to which oil and gas companies have neglected producing on approved permits amid the global energy crisis last year.
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In response to widespread criticism regarding the administration’s restrictions on federal fossil fuel leasing amid all-time-high gasoline prices, the White House repeatedly touted the 9,000-permit figure and argued industry had the ability to immediately begin producing.
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“Right now, the oil and gas industry is sitting on nearly 9,000 unused but approved permits for production on federal lands,” Biden remarked in March 2022. “Families can’t afford that companies sit on these — their hands.”
“By the way, one thing I want to say about the oil companies: They talk about how we have — they have 9,000 permits to drill,” he added months later. “They’re not drilling. Why aren’t they drilling?”
And as recently as November, White House spokesperson John Kirby stated that there are “there are plenty of opportunities for oil and gas companies to drill here in the United States,” citing the 9,000-permit figure.
“Despite the administration’s inaccurate and misleading numbers, the reality is that the U.S. natural gas and oil industry is confronting the global energy crisis by continuing to work to meet the energy needs of U.S. consumers and our allies abroad,” Frank Macchiarola, the American Petroleum Institute’s senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs, told Fox News Digital.
“It is time for the administration to end the finger-pointing and instead support American production with a comprehensive strategy for American energy development — one that includes a final five-year program for offshore leasing and quarterly onshore lease sales,” Macchiarola continued.
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Additionally, the Biden administration has dragged its feet on oil and gas lease sales, only holding sales when directed by either federal courts or the Inflation Reduction Act. The DOI has delayed issuing a congressionally five-year plan for offshore drilling and is weighing a complete block on such leasing through 2028.
Oil production on federal lands fell to 12.28 million barrels per day in November, the latest month with data. Production peaked at 13 million barrels a day under the Trump administration.
But a Biden administration official downplayed the alteration Monday, saying the number of unused oil and gas permits remains high.
“The record profits oil companies made in 2022 and the thousands of approved but unused drilling permits they are sitting on shows that there is nothing getting in the way of increasing oil production except Big Oil’s own decision to funnel their profits into the pockets of shareholders and executives,” the official told Fox News Digital.