(Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s Interior Department has approved about half as many wind and solar energy projects on federal lands as the Obama administration had at the same point in its first term, according to a report published on Thursday.
The numbers reflect the administration’s soft-pedaling of renewable energy development while favoring expansion of oil and gas drilling, the study by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress said.
Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda aims to reduce regulatory red tape to boost domestic energy production. Drilling for oil and gas on federal lands is a key part of that strategy, though the administration has said it favors an “all of the above” approach to energy.
The CAP analysis, based on federal data, found the Trump administration has approved seven solar projects and one wind project since taking office compared with 15 total wind and solar projects approved under the previous administration in its first 3-1/2 years. Report author Kate Kelly blamed the repeal of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that would have required utilities to slash power plant emissions and policies like tariffs on imports of solar panels for some of the slowdown, but said they cannot fully explain the decline.
The study also found the administration has failed to hold competitive lease sales for wind and solar energy development despite holding dozens for oil and gas leases during the period. It has also dismantled the Bureau of Land Management’s National Renewable Energy Coordination Office, CAP said, adding that Interior officials have had 10 times as many meetings with oil and gas industry representatives as with solar and wind companies.
Interior Department officials did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom)