Biden administration delays oil and gas lease sales again amid environmental protest

Biden administration delays oil and gas lease sales again amid environmental protest

Posted For: Willie Wonka

The Biden administration delayed multiple oil and gas lease sales a second time late last week amid an ongoing protest from environmental groups opposing the sales.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency tasked with overseeing oil and gas development on public lands, announced Friday the dates for three lease sales slated for New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming would take place at the end of the month. The three sales had already been rescheduled once before for the same reason.

“The date for this sale has shifted slightly to complete the analyses required under the National Environmental Policy Act and allow time for protest resolution,” the BLM said in its announcements Friday.

The BLM originally scheduled the New Mexico and Colorado sales for June 16 and the Wyoming sale for this week.

In addition, a separate oil and gas lease sale in Nevada scheduled for June 14 was delayed two weeks earlier this month. Two others set for June 28 in Utah and Montana haven’t been pushed back.

“Greenhouse gas pollution resulting only from existing federal fossil fuel development and potential development from leases and drilling permits already issued but not yet under production, would contribute to catastrophic climate change and unnecessary and undue degradation to the atmosphere and other public lands values that BLM is legally obligated to protect,” a coalition of 13 environmental groups wrote in a May 18 protest filing challenging the Nevada sale.

The groups, led by the Western Environmental Law Center, argued the administration wasn’t legally required to hold the sales as it had argued and that it would need to conduct an extensive environmental review before proceeding. The Sierra Club joined that coalition and filed a second protest.

In April, the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced it would proceed with the six oil and gas lease sales as part of a reformed federal leasing program that reduced land available by 80% and increased royalty rates for drillers. The administration said it would hold the sales because of a June 2021 federal court ruling blocking President Joe Biden’s attempted pause on all new leasing.

The administration has yet to hold a single onshore lease sale over the last 18 months ago.

Republican lawmakers and fossil fuel industry groups, meanwhile, have criticized Biden for his climate agenda. Since taking office, he has canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, rolled back drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and pushed for green energy subsidies.

“We need to flip the switch,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers told Fox News in an interview on June 13. “We need to unleash American energy.”

A BLM spokesperson reiterated the agency’s statement Friday in an email and a DOI spokesperson referred Fox News Digital back to the original BLM press releases in response to an inquiry.

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