President Joe Biden campaigned on a calibrated fracking policy. He said he would bar any new leases on federal land but, in most other ways, allow the widespread method of oil and gas extraction to continue.
"I do not propose banning fracking," Biden said Oct. 15, 2020, at an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia. "I think you have to make sure that fracking is, in fact, not emitting methane or polluting the well or dealing with what can be small earthquakes in how they're drilling. So, it has to be managed very, very well."
In a March 15, 2020, debate, Biden seemed to say he would stop all new fracking. But he immediately emphasized that his plan applied only to federal lands and only to new leases. Many Republicans attacked Biden for wanting to go beyond that policy, and those claims ended up on the false side of the Truth-O-Meter.
One week after taking office, Biden signed an executive order that put all new leasing on hold "pending completion of a comprehensive review" by the Interior Department. It applied to both land and offshore leases.
The pushback was immediate.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said the move would cost thousands of people their jobs and hurt "Wyoming's economy and the economies of other states like New Mexico, North Dakota and Louisiana."
The immediate effect of the policy defies easy prediction.
Oil and gas drawn from federal property represents a lesser share of total U.S. production. In 2019, oil from federal land amounted to about 22% of the total, and natural gas accounted for about 11%.
Those existing leases remain unaffected by Biden's order. There are over 7,000 approved drilling permits that oil and gas companies have yet to use.
Right now, the market is driving fracking activity far more than Biden's policy, said Texas A&M University economist Eric Lewis.
"This is going to have a short-term impact on leasing, and basically zero impact on the drilling," Lewis said, "because the oil prices are too low."
The largest drillers on federal land and offshore zones have said they have secured enough drilling rights to last several years. Smaller operators though — those that haven't stockpiled leases — would be more vulnerable.
The pause on leasing is open-ended. In the long run, Biden has said he wants to move the country away from fossil fuels and replace oil and gas jobs with work in industries that don't put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
It is possible that opponents of the policy could reverse it in court or through legislation. For now, we rate this promise In the Works.