The Biden administration has begun the process of reviewing and modernizing the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) outdated and broken oil and gas leasing program—and not a moment too soon.
As President Biden recognized in his January 27th executive order, “[w]e have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of [the climate] crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.”
The Interior Department is accepting public comments on the leasing review process through this Thursday, April 15th. Click here to submit your comments to Interior Secretary Haaland now.
Four long years of the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda highlighted just how broken the BLM’s oil and gas program has become and why significant changes are needed. Among the larger problems:
- The BLM’s oil and gas leasing program plays a significant role in the climate crisis. According to the most recent data available from the United States Geological Survey, nationwide emissions from fossil fuels produced on federal lands represents 23.7 percent of national emissions for carbon dioxide, 7.3 percent for methane, and 1.5 percent for nitrous oxide over a ten-year period. All told, nearly a quarter of all U.S. carbon emissions come from fossil fuels extracted from our federal public lands.
- Oil and gas operators currently hold thousands of leases across millions of acres of public land that they have not developed. In Utah, for example, 63 percent of the existing leases are sitting idle. Many of the leases were sold by the BLM for as little as $1.50 per acre.
- Oil and gas operators across the West are sitting on almost 10,000 unused drilling permits. In Utah, the pace of new drilling has come to a near standstill and operators only develop approximately half of the permits that are approved. This slowdown is market-driven and occurred even during the Trump administration.
As these statistics make clear, fossil fuel development on public lands poses a grave threat to our climate and the very last thing we need to do is make even more lands available for leasing and drilling.
Crucially, these public lands—if left intact and protected from oil and gas leasing—can mitigate the worst effects of climate change. A recently released report estimates that passage of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would permanently keep in the ground greenhouse gas emissions equal to 5.7 percent of the carbon budget necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. These same lands are estimated to currently sequester and store 247 million metric tons of organic carbon.
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, wildlife, cultural treasures, and wild places. This unbalanced approach must stop now.
Please tell the Biden administration to end oil and gas leasing on our public lands—and especially those proposed for wilderness designation under America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.
If you prefer, you can submit your comments directly to the Interior Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.