Landon Newell, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • March 8th, 2022

    Utah Governor Cox and his pro-fossil-fuel allies are cynically trying to take advantage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to encourage President Biden to quickly lease publicly-owned lands across the United States, including in Utah. But issuing new leases will do little to alleviate rising fuel prices.

    First, the issuing of new leases doesn’t directly correlate with the amount of drilling on public lands. While the acreage of public lands under lease in Utah has fluctuated over the past decade, the acreage in production has not. As of 2020, approximately sixty-three percent of existing federal leases in Utah were undeveloped, totaling nearly 1.8 million acres. 

    Put another way, the oil and gas industry is currently sitting on nearly 1.8 million acres of public land leases and not developing them. There is no reason to believe selling more leases now would change that.


    Second
    , oil and gas companies have nearly 10,000 unused (already approved) drilling permits in their pockets. In Utah, oil and gas operators on average drill less than half of their approved drilling permits.

    As President Biden correctly explained when he banned the import of Russian oil and natural gas:

    “[Industry has] 9,000 permits to drill now . . . They could be drilling right now, yesterday, last week, last year. They have 9,000 to drill onshore that are already approved. So let me be clear . . . They are not using them for production now. That’s their decision. These are the facts.” (See also this White House fact sheet.)

    Third, most oil and gas drilling in Utah and across the United States takes place on state and private land, not public land. This means more federal public lands leasing will do little, if anything, to promote new drilling (even assuming companies would develop new leases).

    The Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development recently explained that between 2015-2019 “only an average of 17% of oil wells were drilled on federal land [in Utah]” and there is “no anticipated increase in drilling on federal land.” This study concluded that even if all federal leasing were paused—for years—“Utah has more than enough potential well locations that could be drilled without major disruption to overall activities.”

  • February 7th, 2022

    It’s now been a year since President Biden issued his Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Among other things, the order placed a pause on oil and gas leasing on federal public lands and committed the United States to a ten-year goal of conserving 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

    At the time, SUWA called the leasing moratorium “a common sense and desperately needed step to right the ship and chart a more thoughtful, climate conscious path forward as our nation Builds Back Better.” Not surprisingly, Utah Governor Spencer Cox and pro-drilling groups such as the Western Energy Alliance immediately launched an aggressive campaign claiming the pause would have devastating effects on Utah’s rural economy.

    So what actually happened? In short, those dire predictions proved wildly inaccurate.

    To learn just how inaccurate they were and why, we invite you to scroll through our story map, The Pause on New Oil & Gas Leasing in Utah: One Year Later (and share it with friends).

    Click image to view story map

    For far too long the BLM has wrongly elevated oil and gas leasing and development as the primary use of our nation’s public lands, threatening our climate, wild places, cultural heritage, and the continued existence of thousands of species. This unbalanced approach must stop now. Our wild places—and the climate crisis—demand no less.

  • November 22nd, 2021

    Not long ago we told you about the Biden administration’s plan to auction off more than 6,600 acres of public land in Utah for oil and gas development. You may have even submitted comments in September, during the scoping phase of the public process. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has now released its environmental assessment for this lease sale and is accepting public comments through December 1st. Once again, we need you to raise your voice.

    Please tell the BLM to protect our climate by keeping fossil fuel development off our public lands.

    Development on these parcels would threaten wildlife, water resources, and recreation while exacerbating the climate crisis. Four of the six parcels are located adjacent to the Green River in the Uinta Basin, while another is located adjacent to the San Rafael Reef Wilderness, just north of the entrance to Goblin Valley State Park.

    Aerial View of San Rafael Reef Wilderness. © Tom Till

    The BLM is not required to sell these—or any parcels—for development. In January, President Biden issued an executive order pausing all new oil and gas leasing on public lands to allow the Interior Department to review its broken leasing program. And while a federal court in Louisiana set aside that order and instructed the Interior Department to restart a leasing process, the BLM retains broad legal discretion not to lease these lands in order to protect public health and the environment, including our climate.

    Tell the BLM to exercise its discretion and defer its sale of these Utah lease parcels.

    The Interior Department has recognized that the current oil and gas program is broken because, among other things, it “fail[s] to adequately incorporate consideration of climate impacts into leasing decisions” and “inadequately account[s] for environmental harms to lands, waters, and other resources.” The BLM should not offer any new parcels until these shortcomings are resolved, and the Biden administration should stand by its promise to curb fossil fuel leasing and development on our public lands.

    The BLM is accepting comments on its environmental assessment through December 1st. Please submit your comments today.

    Thank you!

  • September 29th, 2021

    Fossil fuel extraction on public lands accounts for nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. These climate-altering emissions are wreaking havoc on our natural world, resulting in massive wildfires, extreme drought, and catastrophic flooding events. The Colorado Plateau and Utah’s redrock wilderness are expected to suffer some of the worst impacts over the coming decades.

    Despite this scientific reality, the Biden administration is considering selling a new slate of oil and gas leases across the West, including in Utah.

    Tell Biden’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to protect our climate by keeping fossil fuel development off our public lands.

    In Utah, the BLM is proposing to sell six parcels covering more than 6,600 acres of public lands for oil and gas development. Development on these parcels would threaten wildlife, water resources, and recreation while exacerbating the climate crisis. Four of the parcels are located adjacent to the Green River in the Uinta Basin, while another is located adjacent to the San Rafael Reef Wilderness, just north of the entrance to Goblin Valley State Park.

    San Rafael Reef. © Tom Till

    The BLM is not required to sell these—or any parcels—for development. In January, President Biden issued an executive order pausing all new oil and gas leasing on public lands to allow the Interior Department to review its broken leasing program. And while a federal court in Louisiana set aside that order and instructed the Interior Department to restart a leasing process, the court explained that the outcome of that process remained entirely subject to the BLM’s broad discretion as the land management agency—that is, the BLM retains broad legal discretion not to lease these lands in order to protect public health and the environment, including our climate.

    Tell the BLM to exercise its discretion and defer its sale of these Utah lease parcels.

    The Interior Department has recognized that the current oil and gas program is broken because, among other things, it “fail[s] to adequately incorporate consideration of climate impacts into leasing decisions” and “inadequately account[s] for environmental harms to lands, waters, and other resources.” The BLM should not offer any new parcels until these shortcomings are resolved and the agency can tell the American people that development of these parcels will not further exacerbate the climate crisis (spoiler alert: it can’t do that, and thus shouldn’t offer these parcels for sale!).

    The BLM is accepting comments on its leasing proposal through October 1st. Please submit your comments today.

    Thank you for taking action!

  • June 14th, 2021

    The Biden administration is poised to authorize oil and gas drilling on the doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument. If approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the proposal will industrialize a remote and scenic area by greenlighting the construction of new access roads, well pads, and the drilling of two wells—all about ¼ of a mile from the monument.

    This ill-conceived project—proposed by Hoodoo Mining & Production Co. LLC—runs counter to every stated goal and objective of the Biden administration. It threatens some of our nation’s wildest, most scenic public lands, including a national monument, and will harm lands with wilderness characteristics as well as priority habitat for greater sage-grouse. On top of all this, it will exacerbate the climate crisis.

    The BLM is accepting comments through June 23rd. Please tell agency not to approve this terrible drilling proposal.

    Split Mountain Benches
    Wilderness-quality lands at risk near Dinosaur National Monument. © Scott Braden/SUWA

    Making matters worse, BLM is bending over backwards to facilitate the project. The drilling and related development will take place on public lands that are currently subject to a “no surface occupancy” stipulation, which prohibits all surface disturbing activities. When Hoodoo Mining acquired the lease it did so with full knowledge of this restriction. Now, at the company’s request, the BLM is proposing to waive that important stipulation rather than requiring the company to develop in a less sensitive area.

    Tell the BLM not to grant Hoodoo Mining’s request to waive the “no surface occupancy” stipulation.

    Dinosaur National Monument is world-renowned for its remarkable density and diversity of prehistoric sites and paleontological resources. In addition, according to the National Park Service, the monument “is one of the darkest places remaining in the United States. Because there is little light pollution here, you can see the stars of the Milky Way galaxy with startling clarity.”

    With your help, SUWA will fight every step of this project to ensure that the monument remains that way.

    Please click here to submit your comments now.