Climate Change


  • October 6th, 2021

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Steve Bloch, Legal Director, (801) 428-3981, steve@suwa.org

    Moab, UT (October 6, 2021) – In response to the Council on Environmental Quality’s draft proposal released this morning to update the National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) implementing regulations, which would restore many long-standing policies altered by the Trump administration, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) Legal Director Steve Bloch issued the following statement:

    “This is an important first step to bringing common sense back to federal decision making that affects so many aspects of life in Utah. From analyzing the impacts to disadvantaged communities from uranium waste contamination to being clear eyed about the devastating consequences leasing, development and burning fossil fuels has to the climate, the Biden administration is rightly restoring transparency and science-based agency decision-making. Bottom line, these changes are necessary to ensure federal agencies are accurately disclosing all of the environmental and public health impacts of their decisions.”

    Additional Resources:

    Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) – Proposed Action for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Revisions

  • 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!

  • August 17th, 2021

    Last week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a devastating new scientific report detailing the dire consequences of the ongoing—and worsening—climate crisis. The United Nations Secretary General called the findings “a code red for humanity.” (Read the key takeaways from the report here.)

    The IPCC’s report is an urgent call to action and its conclusions are unequivocal: we have already pushed the climate crisis too far and now the only question that remains is how quickly we can act to keep things from getting worse.

    Immediately after taking office, President Biden took decisive action to reverse the prior administration’s reckless course on climate, quickly rejoining the Paris Agreement and subsequently committing to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This is an encouraging start, but much remains to be done.

    In order to reach its emissions goal, the Biden administration must immediately halt all new oil, gas, and coal leasing on federal public lands. SUWA has called on President Biden to take this crucial step to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. According to the United States Geological Survey, producing and burning fossil fuels generates nearly one quarter of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions, as well as substantial amounts of methane―an even more potent greenhouse gas.

    Oil and gas development in southern Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA

    Fortunately, the Biden administration is listening. The Interior Department has launched a sweeping—and long overdue—review of the federal oil and gas leasing program and will soon release its recommendations for fixing the broken leasing system.

    But Washington, DC isn’t a one-horse town; Congress also has to do its part. And that’s where you can help.

    Please ask your members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!

    Passage of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act will grant permanent protection to Utah’s wildest public lands while shielding them from climate destabilizing fossil fuel leasing and development. According to a report released this year, these lands, if kept intact and protected from the threats of such development, can help mitigate the worst effects of climate change. In fact, it’s estimated that passage of the Red Rock bill would permanently keep in the ground greenhouse gas emissions equal to 5.7 percent of the carbon budget necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. These same lands are estimated to currently sequester and store 247 million metric tons of organic carbon.

    Please contact your members of Congress today and ask them to take a decisive step toward protecting the climate by cosponsoring America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    Thank you!

  • 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.

  • June 9th, 2021

    There is some entertainment value to Senator Romney and Representative Curtis introducing an Illinois wilderness bill to contrast the more serious proposal from Senator Durbin to protect federally-owned wild lands located within the state of Utah.  However, their bill covers the entire Shawnee National Forest regardless of what is still wild and what is not, so it doesn’t truly pass the laugh test.

    So let’s talk about actions that are actually important and impactful.

    The world is facing a climate crisis.  The Colorado River is at all-time lows and shrinking, threatening water used for drinking and growing food for millions.  Forest fires burn across the headlines.  Bigger fiercer hurricanes are wreaking unprecedented damage. Storm patterns are harming agriculture in the American heartland.  Refugees are beginning to flee from one nation to another due to climate impacts.  Creation itself is in decline with the numbers of lifeforms and their wild homes crashing to unprecedented lows.  This is just the beginning tip of the melting iceberg.

    Instead of frivolous legislation, it would be helpful to see a serious proposal from the Utah delegation.  Fortunately, we have “America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act” to fill the void.

    Scientists – and the Paris Climate Agreement — tell us we need to remain below a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature increase if we are to avoid widespread and irreversible disaster.  To accomplish that we need to stop emitting greenhouse gasses and sustain Mother Nature’s capacity to draw carbon out of the atmosphere via sequestration. America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act makes a sizable contribution on both fronts.

    A new peer-reviewed research study shows that Senator Durbin’s bill would allow us to keep in the ground the equivalent of nearly 6% of the carbon budget necessary to avoid warming the earth more than 1.5 degrees.  The same study shows that conserving the trees, desert shrublands and soils on these lands would retain their innate ability to pull carbon out of the atmosphere, allowing the amount of carbon sequestered by these lands to increase 10% over the course of this century.

    And there are more benefits.  America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would conserve substantial areas of “climate refugia” – wildland habitat that is crucial for animals and plants to adapt to and survive changing climate conditions.  In addition, Utah’s wildlands sit in a uniquely productive place for sustaining multi-state wildlife corridors – five to be exact – that provide lifelines for deer, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, black bear and mountain lion in a changing climate.

    Finally, Senator Durbin’s bill would help sustain flows in the shrinking Colorado River.  This is because the bill would help prevent surface-disturbing activities which increase the amount of windblown dust that lands on Colorado snowpack.  Studies show that “red dust on snow” causes the snow to melt faster and sooner, reducing flows by more than 5% in recent years.

    These are positive impacts for people across the west, the entire nation, and the world.

    What happens to the wild places on the United States public lands within the boundaries of Utah is of concern to all Americans.  We elect United States Senators to represent their home state, serve the entire country and do what they can to help the world.  We are grateful  that Sen. Durbin is stepping into his responsibility, acting for our families and for our future.

    Take Action! Ask Your Members of Congress to Cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.