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Texas Gov. Abbott fights back against Biden administration’s order suspending oil, gas drilling on federal lands and waters

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    ODESSA, Texas (KTVT) — In Odessa Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott fired back at President Joe Biden’s executive order armed with an executive order of his own.

The governor directed all state agencies to sue the federal government over its new policy to place on hold new oil and natural gas leases on federal lands and waters.

During a news conference he said, “Texas is going to protect the oil and gas industry from any type of hostile attack launched from Washington, D.C. Texas is not going to stand idly by and watch the Biden administration kill jobs.”

The governor held a roundtable discussion at Cudd Energy Services.

An employee there, Daniel Posada, told reporters that he and his co-workers feel threatened by the Biden administration’s policy. “This industry is important to not just Texas, but the United States. We made a big part and we are here to stay.”

President Biden’s executive order says, “The United States and the world face a profound climate crisis. We have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.”

While there is little to no oil and natural gas drilling on federal lands in Texas, off-shore drilling in federal waters is significant.

The Texas Oil and Gas Association warns under the Biden policy, Texas could lose 120,000 jobs and $65 million in revenues by next year.

The President’s executive order even concerned supporters, including Marc Veasey of Fort Worth.

He is one of four Democratic members of Congress from Texas who this week sent a letter to the president.

The letter said, “We urge you to rescind this order… Now is not the time to jeopardize American jobs or the critical tax and royalty revenues that federal leases generate for local, state, and federal government that needs funds now.”

Jim Schermbeck of Downwinders At Risk, a DFW-based environmental justice group, said he’s disappointed in Congressman Veasey’s letter and supports the Biden order. “It’s a good first step in addressing this huge problem of methane pollution, which is poisonous in terms of the climate, and much more damaging in some ways, then Co2 is, carbon dioxide. We hope there’s more dramatic and final action to come.”

Schermbeck downplays the impact on the industry. “The industry is not taking a hit here. What they’re doing is trying to prevent themselves from taking additional hits that might cut further in the future. This one is very shallow.”

But Bud Weinstein, former associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute at SMU, said the moratorium on offshore drilling will no doubt hit the Texas industry. “The fact that there will be number one, no new lease sales, and no new drilling on existing leases is going to affect the Texas industry significantly.”

Weinstein predicts more lawsuits being filed against the Biden administration. “If you have leased a track, and you’ve paid money up front, and you had anticipated drilling, and now the government says you can’t do it, I think there are going to be some serious legal issues there.”

In a statement to CBS 11 News, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said, “Should the suspension become permanent, it could have serious impacts to jobs in Texas that rely on robust onshore and offshore exploration and production activity. Furthermore, if this action is an example of what Texas can expect from this administration, I have serious concerns about the potential future impacts to a sector whose innovations in fracking technology helped to lead the nation out of the great recession.”

In a news release Thursday, the Texas Democratic Party criticized the Governor and pointed to General Motors’ announcement that it will stop manufacturing gas-powered light duty vehicles by 2035. “Energy companies have already diversified their portfolios. Abbott needs to be upfront and honest with working Texans about how jobs are going to change over time.”

Last year, the U.S. became a net oil exporter, and Weinstein said that could change. “We could see imports rise by as much as two million barrels per day, make us a net importer again, and that has very significant implications for energy security.”

Meantime, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) today sent a letter with 24 of their Senate colleagues to President Biden voicing their concerns and requesting a meeting with the president.

The letter is cosigned by U.S. Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Kennedy (R-La.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

In the letter, the senators wrote:

“Mr. President, we all watched your inauguration and took your words about unity and putting yourself in other people’s shoes to heart. We know you understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of Americans to live paycheck to paycheck and to be worried about how they are going to pay rent and feed their families.

“Unfortunately, by targeting resource development, you have put thousands of good-paying jobs at risk, which is adding to the burden that our constituents are bearing right now and has the potential to further the divide between rural and urban America. The actions you’ve taken have the very real potential to devastate these hard-working Americans and leave them and their families behind for decades to come.”

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