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Utah tribe calls Biden’s order on new oil drilling a ‘direct attack’ on its economy

Chuck Ross, DCNF

A Native American tribe in Utah said a Biden administration order blocking new permits to drill for oil and gas on federal lands is a “direct attack” on its economy and sovereignty.

The Ute Indian Tribe is seeking a waiver from Order 3395, which Scott de la Vega, the acting secretary of the interior, implemented on Jan. 21.


The order pauses the issuance of new permits for oil and gas drilling on federal lands for 60 days. The order does not impact ongoing drilling, but President Joe Biden has said that he wants to ban drilling and fracking on all federal lands as part of a broader effort to fight climate change.

Biden has also said that he is open to banning fracking altogether, even on private land.

New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, who Biden has nominated to lead the Department of the Interior, has also said she is “wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands.”

While some Native tribes oppose energy drilling on their lands, the Ute tribe says that drilling permits are vital to its economy.

“Your order is a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination. Indian lands are not federal public lands,”  Luke Duncan, the chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee, wrote to de la Vega on Thursday.

“Any action on our lands and interests can only be taken after effective tribal consultation.”

According to Reuters, the tribe produces around 45,000 barrels of oil and 900 million cubic feet of natural gas a day through drilling in the Uintah basin.

In another executive order, Biden suspended construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada to the U.S.

Energy companies argue that bans on federal drilling and the Keystone pipeline will make the U.S. more dependent on foreign oil and gas and cause losses of hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

Officials in states like New Mexico worry that a permanent ban on drilling on federal lands will severely hurt their economies.

“Eliminating drilling on public lands will cost thousands of New Mexicans their jobs and destroy what’s left of our state’s economy,” Dale Janway, the mayor of Carlsbad, New Mexico, told The Associated Press on Friday.

“Environmental efforts should be fair and well-researched, not knee-jerk mandates that just hurt an already impoverished state.”

Half of all drilling in New Mexico is conducted on federal lands. State officials have used royalties from oil and gas production to beef up funding for education and other public programs.

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