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Live Updates: Biden Halts Oil And Gas Leases On US Land, Water For 60 Days

President Joe Biden signs a series of executive orders in the Oval Office of ...

Photo by Evan Vucci AP

Above: President Joe Biden signs a series of executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday. The Biden administration is expected to reverse several Trump-era policies, including one that prohibits U.S. funding for overseas groups that provide or refer patients for abortions.

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Biden Halts Oil And Gas Leases On US Land, Water For 60 Days

– 1:27 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021

The Biden administration announced Thursday the suspension of new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits for U.S. lands and waters for 60 days as part a broad review of programs at the Department of Interior.

The move follows President Joe Biden's campaign pledge to halt new drilling on federal lands and end the leasing of publicly owned energy reserves as part of his plan to address climate change.

The suspension went into effect immediately under an order signed Wednesday by Acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega. The order did not limit existing oil and gas operations under valid leases, meaning oil and gas activity won't come to a sudden halt on the millions of acres of lands in the West and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico where much drilling is concentrated.

The order also blocks the approval of new mining plans, land sales or exchanges and the hiring of senior-level staff at the agency.

The administration's announcement drew a quick backlash from the oil industry's main trade group, the American Petroleum Institute, which said limiting access to publicly owned energy resources would mean more foreign oil imports, lost jobs and fewer tax revenues. — Matthew Brown, Associated Press

Biden Inherits Damaged Economy, With Signs Of Hope Emerging

– 1:11 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021

President Joe Biden has inherited a badly damaged economy pulverized by the pandemic, with 10 million fewer jobs than a year ago and as many as one in 6 small businesses shut down.

Yet there are also signs of resilience and recovery that suggest the prospect of a rebound, perhaps a robust one, by the second half of his first year in office. Despite the bleakness of the economic landscape, Biden by most accounts faces a less daunting challenge than he confronted as vice president under Barack Obama more than a decade ago in the depths of the Great Recession.

The hardships inflicted by the pandemic recession have been deep but concentrated in a few extremely hard-hit sectors and harshly unequal. Much of the economy, particularly housing and manufacturing, has held up surprisingly well compared with previous recessions. People fortunate enough to keep their jobs — disproportionately affluent Americans — have bulked up their savings. They could be poised to unleash a spending boom later this year once vaccines have been more broadly distributed.

There are also signs that the job market, for all its deep losses, is enduring less permanent harm than it has in the past and might be set up for a fast hiring recovery.

Still, for now, many signs are dreary: Consumers have retrenched, and months of job gains have turned to losses. New applications for unemployment benefits remain shockingly high 10 months since layoffs first spiked last March. And the human toll of the pandemic recession, from depressingly long food-bank lines to apartment evictions, has yet to show much improvement.

All of which helps explains why Biden saw the need last week to propose another mammoth federal rescue aid package — a $1.9 trillion plan to end what he called “a crisis of deep human suffering.” — Christopher Rugaber, Associated Press

Biden's Climate Steps Could Have Big Impact On Energy Firms

– 12:55 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021

President Joe Biden has put his team to work reviewing dozens of actions taken by former President Donald Trump, aiming to reverse orders that he says harm the environment or endanger public health.

For the energy and auto industries, the impact could be far-reaching.

Biden aims to reduce harmful emissions from cars, trucks and SUVs. Oil and gas operations are being scrutinized as well — from how companies extract resources from the ground to the safety of pipelines that distribute the fuels. The new president aims to transition the country to 100% renewable energy for electricity generation by 2035 and net-zero emissions in the overall economy by 2050.

His campaign website promises to develop “rigorous” new fuel economy standards and eventually make all light- and medium-duty vehicles electric, though it provides no time frame. During his campaign, Biden also spoke about restricting oil and gas drilling on federal lands and reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

Many experts agree that Biden’s actions could help the nation achieve ambitious climate goals and further enhance the renewable energy sector, driving job growth. Others say they worry more that stricter regulations could hurt companies struggling to recover from the pandemic, which decimated demand for fuel.

Hours after his inauguration Wednesday, Biden directed federal agencies to immediately review regulations and executive actions taken in the past four years that threatened public health or the environment. Ultimately, his success will require surmounting opposition in the energy industry as well as in Congress.

“Yes, we have a blue wave, but it’s a pretty thin wave with a 50/50 split in the Senate,” said Stewart Glickman, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research. “Still, this is the first presidency that is actively trying to discourage fossil fuel development while promoting renewables. — Associated Press

Biden Signs Burst Of Virus Orders, Requires Masks For Travel

– 12:31 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021

With a burst of executive orders, President Joe Biden served notice Thursday that the nation's COVID-19 response is under new management and he's demanding progress to reduce infections and lift the siege Americans have endured for nearly a year.

The 10 orders signed by Biden are aimed at jump-starting his national COVID-19 strategy to increase vaccinations and testing, lay the groundwork for reopening schools and businesses, and immediately increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel. One directive calls for addressing health care inequities in minority communities hard hit by the virus.

“We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it will take months to turn this around,” Biden said. “Despite the best intentions we’re going to face setbacks “ But he declared: "To a nation waiting for action, let me be clear on this point: Help is on the way.”

The new president has vowed to take far more aggressive measures to contain the virus than his predecessor, starting with stringent adherence to public health guidance. He faces steep obstacles, with the virus actively spreading in most states, slow progress on the vaccine rollout and political uncertainty over whether congressional Republicans will help him pass a $1.9 trillion economic relief and COVID response package. — Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press

World Leaders Cheer US Return To Climate Fight Under Biden

– 12:23 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021

World leaders breathed an audible sigh of relief that the United States under President Joe Biden is rejoining the global effort to curb climate change, a cause that his predecessor had shunned over the past four years.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron were among those welcoming Biden's decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord, reversing a key Trump policy in the first hours of his presidency Wednesday.

“Rejoining the Paris Agreement is hugely positive news,” tweeted Johnson, whose country is hosting this year's U.N. climate summit.

Macron said that with Biden, “we will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet.”

The Paris accord, forged in the French capital in 2015, commits countries to put forward plans for reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which is released from burning fossil fuels.

Former President Donald Trump had questioned the scientific warnings about man-made global warming, at times accusing other countries of using the Paris accord as a club to hurt Washington. The U.S. formally left the pact in November. — Frank Jordans, Associated Press

US Officials: Biden Proposes 5-year Extension Of Nuke Treaty

– 12:13 p.m, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021

The Biden administration is proposing to Russia a five-year extension of the New START treaty limiting the number of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, U.S. officials said Thursday.

Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan planned to convey the extension proposal to Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, on Thursday afternoon, said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a matter not yet publicly announced by the administration. A second U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the proposal but offered no details.

The move, providing an early signal of Biden's intent to pursue arms control, is almost certain to be welcomed both by Russia and key American allies. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday called on the United States and Russia to extend the treaty and to later broaden it.

“We should not end up in a situation with no limitation on nuclear warheads, and New START will expire within days,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

Stoltenberg underlined that “an extension of the New START is not the end, it’s the beginning of our efforts to further strengthen arms control.”

The treaty is set to expire Feb. 5 and is the last remaining agreement constraining U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons. Signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, it limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads. * — Matthew Lee and Robert Burns, Associated Press*

Biden Signs Series Of First Executive Orders

- 2:20 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021

President Joe Biden has signed a series of executive orders from the Oval Office hours after his inauguration.

Biden wore a mask while seated behind the Resolute Desk with a stack of orders early Wednesday evening. He said there was “no time to start like today.”

The first order Biden signed was related to the coronavirus pandemic. He also signed an order reentering the U.S. into the Paris climate accord.

While his predecessor Donald Trump broke long-standing practice by skipping Biden’s inauguration, he did follow through on one tradition and left behind a letter for Biden.

The new Democratic president said Trump “wrote a very generous letter.” But Biden said he wouldn’t reveal its contents until he had a chance to speak with Trump. — Associated Press

Biden Orders Federal Agencies To Halt Rulemaking

- 1:55 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021

President Joe Biden has directed that federal agencies halt all rulemaking until his administration has time to review proposed regulations.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain announced the move in a memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies Wednesday afternoon, hours after Biden was sworn in as the nation's 46th president.

The regulatory freeze order is a staple of presidential transitions, allowing the incoming administration to review the pending actions of their predecessors. — Associated Press


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