President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he would seek changes in the way U.S. oil and coal resources are managed, prompting a flood of reaction from environmental groups pushing him to do more to limit fossil fuel production – and producers anxious about regulatory changes. “I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet,” Obama said in his State of the Union address.
As he enters his final year in office, Obama is looking to secure his legacy on priorities like curbing climate change. The White House did not provide details on Tuesday. “That’s an issue I would say, stay tuned for the months ahead,” White House Communications Director Jen Psaki told reporters during a briefing ahead of the speech.
“This is not a speech where I would expect a 25-page fact-sheet. This is more talking about his vision and the issues we need to address,” Psaki said. The Western Energy Alliance, a group that represents oil and natural gas companies that drill on public lands in the western states, said it suspected the lack of immediate details meant that Obama would look for ways to act without Congress.
“He’ll close out his term by continuing to issue new rules through the federal agencies that kill jobs and economic growth in order to promote his climate change agenda,” said Tim Wigley, the group’s president, in a statement. Environmental groups noted Obama’s pledge comes as his administration works on a new five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leases. They are also calling for changes to rules for production of oil and gas on federal lands.
“For far too long, the Interior Department has given away our publicly owned fossil fuels to mining and drilling companies without regard for the damage they cause to communities and our climate,” said Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, in a statement.