Oil Companies are Scrambling to Get Permits Before Biden’s Inauguration

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Lucy McIntire

As the end of Trump’s presidency grows closer, with about a week until Biden is inaugurated, oil companies are scrambling. President-elect Biden’s plan for tackling climate change includes cutting oil drilling, and in response, many oil companies are stockpiling permits to continue to drill in western land long after Trump leaves office. 

Companies have begun to secure permits since Biden was elected President in November, and have been buying even more permits since the start of December. Over three months, including during the election, 3,000 permit applications have been submitted. And, thanks to Trump’s faster permit approval, 1,400 permits have been secured, the highest number during Trump’s presidency. 

Trump had a goal to help boost energy production by the United States, and drilling was the centerpiece. The average processing time for a permit in the final year of the Obama administration was about 140 days, in the 2019 fiscal year under the Trump Administration, the average processing period has dropped to about 44 days. Drilling in the US has increased during Trump’s term, especially due to cutbacks to waiting periods.

The recent uptick in secured drilling permits are a threat to Biden’s climate goals, one of which is to make the US carbon neutral by 2050. The permits could be used well past Biden’s administration, and the Biden administration would have to pay millions to oil companies to get them to relinquish their permit-provided right to land.