Climate Change


  • August 24th, 2022

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Scott Groene, Executive Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801-712-5034, scott@suwa.org 

    Moab, UT (August 24, 2022) – Today, the State of Utah, along with Garfield and Kane Counties, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging President Biden’s lawful use of the Antiquities Act to restore the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments last October.

    In response to the lawsuit, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) executive director Scott Groene issued the following statement:

    “Once again, Utah’s political leaders are running roughshod over those who live closest to Utah’s national monuments — especially the Tribes that have lived here since time immemorial. This lawsuit further ignores the local elected officials in Grand and San Juan Counties, where Bears Ears is located, and community leaders in the towns closest to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, who have registered their support for President Biden’s lawful restoration of the original monument boundaries.

    “From Governor Cox on down, the continued anti-environment agenda of Utah politicians makes the Utah political delegation the most hostile to America’s public lands, of any state.  At a time when climate change is creating drought and extreme weather events in Utah, Utah’s politicians are exacerbating the harm by trying to upend the very public land protections that play a critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change.  Utah residents deserve better.”

    Additional Resources

    Link to Garfield County et al. lawsuit.



  • August 15th, 2022

    On Friday, the U.S. House passed the Inflation Reduction Act, following  a deal by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) that saw it pass the Senate earlier in the week. President Biden is expected to sign the bill sometime this week.

    The White House says the “bill would make the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history, enabling America to tackle the climate crisis, [and] advancing environmental justice….”

    Some of the big environmental wins include:

    • Investments in clean energy and electric vehicles
    • Reducing U.S. emissions by about 40% below 2005 levels by 2030
    • Establishing a fee for excessive methane gas (a potent greenhouse gas) emissions from oil and gas drilling and development
    • Earmarking $60 billion for environmental justice initiatives in communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change, air pollution, and other environmental ills
    • Providing $250 million for conservation and resource protection projects to the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
    • Providing more than $2 billion for zero-emission equipment to reduce emissions at US ports
    • Addressing community needs (tribal, state, local government) in addressing pollution, weather resilience, and mine reclamation through a block grant program

    A lease was sold in the Eagle Canyon lands with wilderness characteristics area (pictured) noncompetitively for $1.50 per acre. This type of leasing will no longer be possible under the Inflation Reduction Act, preventing speculation by oil and gas companies. Photo by Ray Bloxham.

    But what does the bill mean for Utah and the Colorado Plateau?

    The bill contains important provisions that will reduce oil and gas lease speculation, which is rampant in Utah.

    First, under current law, anyone can nominate public lands for oil and gas leasing, and can do so for free. This process encourages companies to nominate as much land as possible throughout Utah (and the West), requiring the BLM to expend significant time and energy reviewing these lease nominations –most of which are entirely speculative. The Inflation Reduction Act would establish a $5-per-acre fee to nominate parcels for leasing, which will reduce speculation by forcing companies to put up funds to nominate parcels. 

    Second, the Inflation Reduction Act raises the minimum bid price and eliminates noncompetitive, or “over-the-counter,” leasing. Both changes are long overdue and much needed. Currently, there are two ways to lease a parcel: 1) Through a competitive sale via auction, with a minimum bid of only $2 per acre, or 2) By purchasing, within two years,  a “noncompetitive lease” that failed to sell at auction for just $1.50 per acre. These fire sale prices promote lease speculation and allow operators to lock up huge swaths of public lands. In contrast, the Inflation Reduction Act eliminates noncompetitive leasing altogether and raises the minimum competitive bid to $10 per acre.

    Third, the Inflation Reduction Act raises the royalty and rental rates for leasing and development on public lands, bringing these rates closer to what operators pay for state and private land leases and development. Presently, before a lease is put into production, operators pay a nominal rental fee of as little as $1.50 per acre to hold the lease (oftentimes holding these leases for decades without ever putting them into production). The Act modernizes these rates while discouraging speculation by requiring rentals of $3 per acre for years 1-2, $5 per acre for years 3-8, and $15 per acre thereafter.

    Finally, once a lease is put into production, operators currently pay just a 12.5% royalty on all oil and gas extracted from our public lands–a below market rate that, in effect, subsidizes development of publicly-owned lands and minerals. This rate is raised to 16.67% by the Act –which, while still too low, is a significant step in the right direction.

    While the Inflation Reduction Act has a myriad of good things for public lands, climate change mitigation, and environmental justice, it is not perfect. One provision, offered as a compromise to win Sen. Manchin’s support, is a requirement that the Department of the Interior offer 2 million acres of public lands and 60 million acres of offshore waters for oil and gas leasing and development each year for the next decade, or a total of 20 million acres of land and 600 million acres of offshore waters offered for development over the next decade.

    While this provision is concerning and frustrating to see included, the overall bill contains more good than bad, and represents the largest federal investment in climate mitigation and leasing reform to date.

  • June 30th, 2022

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Steve Bloch, Legal Director,  801-859-1552, steve@suwa.org 

    Salt Lake City, UT  (June 30, 2022) – In response to the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision on West Virginia vs. EPA, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) legal director Steve Bloch issued the following statement:

    “We’re disappointed in today’s US Supreme Court decision which goes to extraordinary lengths to limit the federal government’s ability to tackle the ongoing climate crisis.

    “The Court’s radical and activist agenda poses a real threat to federal agency oversight and management of public lands, air and waters that will have real implications in Utah.”

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  • May 6th, 2022

    SUWA is pleased to announce that on Friday April 29th, at their 117th annual convention, lay and clergy delegates of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah passed a Resolution in Support of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act and for the Perpetual Protection and Management of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.

    The 155-year-old Episcopal Church in Utah officially supports the campaigns to protect these special places, and it will actively work for congressional passage of America’s Redrock Wilderness Act. These efforts benefit future generations of Americans and show respect for Indigenous people with ties to the land. The church’s support strengthens the America the Beautiful effort to protect 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, and it furthers action to combat climate change and stem the global loss of biodiversity by protecting habitat for all living beings. The strong support demonstrated by the Episcopal Diocese of Utah is greatly appreciated.

  • April 5th, 2022

    More than a year ago, President Biden directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to pause all new oil and gas leasing on public lands while the agency conducted a comprehensive review of its outdated oil and gas program. The leasing pause was part of a broader executive order meant to address the climate crisis and represented a much needed pivot away from the prior administration’s relentless assault on our public lands.

    Immediately after the president ordered the leasing pause, the state of Utah and pro-drilling groups such as the Western Energy Alliance launched an aggressive campaign claiming the pause would have devastating effects on Utah’s rural economy. These doomsday predictions were wildly inaccurate.

    Now, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the calls for more public land leasing and development have grown louder. But the clamor for more extraction is a thinly a veiled attempt by fossil fuel interests to profit from the ongoing conflict. It is also based on a false premise: that more public land leasing will lead to more drilling and production, which in turn will lower the price of oil and natural gas.

    Not so.

    Most oil and gas drilling in Utah and across the United States takes place on state and private lands, not public lands. And on public lands, operators have stockpiled millions of acres of unused leases and more than 9,000 unused (but approved) drilling permits (see our recent blog post for more on this).

    The war in Ukraine has made it clear that the world needs to become significantly less, not more, reliant on fossil fuels. Meanwhile, climate scientists are speaking in one unified voice and telling us in no uncertain terms that if we continue drilling, transporting, and burning fossil fuels we are risking everything.

    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.