MINOT, N.D. — Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem recently filed suit against President Joe Biden's administration over a moratorium on federal oil and gas leases implemented by Secretary of the Interior (and anti-oil activist) Debra Haaland
You might think this is a relatively small matter, with a marginal impact on North Dakotans, given that most of our state's land and minerals are privately owned.
About 85% of North Dakota's mineral rights are owned privately. Another 9% is owned by the federal government (of which 4% is held in trust by the feds for Native American tribes). The tribes got an exemption from the Biden administration's moratorium — a good thing given the dire economic consequences that would have ensued — but many, many private mineral owners are still impacted.
Under the law, every spacing unit that has federal minerals in it, no matter how small a portion, must go through the Bureau of Land Management's leasing process before it can be developed.
According to Stenehjem's court filings, about 30% of all spacing units in North Dakota have federal minerals in them.
Two lease sales in North Dakota have already been canceled because of the moratorium: one scheduled in March, another for June.
Those two sales would have covered 693 federal acres, but because of the aforementioned entanglements, they also included about 2,000 acres of private minerals and another 480 acres of minerals owned by the State of North Dakota.
What seemed like a moratorium on developing a small sliver of federal minerals in North Dakota has a far larger real-world impact.
And let's flesh out what, exactly, "impact" means in this context.
In just these two sales alone, the moratorium blocked the development of 11.35 million barrels of oil worth $62.45 million in tax revenues and $24.25 million in royalties.
"The loss for North Dakota from all tracts of federal mineral acres in the BLM queue for North Dakota to date — about a year’s worth — means losses exceeding $4.77 billion in tax revenues for the state as well as the loss of $1.2 billion in private royalties," Williston Herald reporter Renee Jean tells us.
This is an enormous impact, and it will grow as the moratorium remains in place.
And remember, this moratorium was issued in the early days of Biden's term with little in the way of process or public input.
It wasn't done thoughtfully; it was put in place to create headlines satisfying to the Biden administration's left-wing base.
Placating activists is a poor motivation for public policy.
I'm certain the Biden administration is well aware of the implications of this moratorium which reach far beyond federal minerals.
I'm certain that was part of the appeal for them, despite the very real problems it creates for mineral owners.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.