U.S. Interior Dept revokes Trump policies, puts climate at center of decisions

Representative Deb Haaland looks on during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior Secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 23, 2021. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS

April 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. Interior Department on Friday sought to erase the Trump administration's pro-fossil fuels legacy from the nation's public lands by revoking a suite of policies that boosted drilling and mining and ordering that climate change be put at the forefront in future agency decisions.

The moves come as the Democratic Biden administration moves rapidly to implement policies aimed at decarbonizing the U.S. economy by 2050.

Republican former President Donald Trump, a vocal climate change skeptic, pushed policies to maximize fossil fuel development on federal lands and waters with a mantra of "energy dominance."

In a statement, the agency said Secretary Deb Haaland issued an order revoking 12 policies issued under Trump. They ranged from orders to review Obama-era policies that hindered energy development, rolling back a moratorium on coal leasing, and an effort to expedite permitting of infrastructure on public lands.

In addition, the agency withdrew a legal opinion issued in the final week of Trump's presidency that said federal law requires the Interior Department to implement an offshore oil and gas leasing program that includes at least two sales every five years.

The agency is reviewing its onshore and offshore oil and gas leasing programs in what is widely seen as a step toward delivering on Biden's campaign pledge to ban new federal leasing.

In another order issued on Friday, Haaland established a climate change task force to coordinate efforts like boosting renewable energy development on federal lands and waters.

In the same order, the department outlined how science should guide decision-making and instructed officials to maintain robust environmental reviews that analyze climate change and engage tribes and underserved communities.

"I know that signing Secretarial Orders alone won't address the urgency of the climate crisis," Haaland said in a statement. "But I'm hopeful that these steps will help make clear that we, as a Department, have a mandate to act."

Reporting by Nichola Groom Editing by Chris Reese

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