Conservation groups oppose Biden administration’s energy rental plans

Conservation groups protest the Biden administration’s plan to open nearly 750,000 acres of public land for oil and gas rentals / Rebecca Latson file

The Biden administration’s decision to open nearly 750,000 acres of public land for oil and gas leasing has drawn criticism from conservation groups who say the move runs counter to past statements by President Biden on the fight against climate change.

Groups filed Friday formal objections the administration’s plans to open 734,000 acres in Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah and the Dakotas for oil and gas leases. Groups protesting the leases included the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and The Wilderness Society.

The objections were filed by the Western Environmental Law Center, which claimed that “the oil and gas in the proposed leases contain up to 246 million tonnes of climate pollution, as many as 62 coal-fired power plants emit in a year.” .

The documents also claim that the United States Bureau of Land Management lands should be “closed for rental due to the government’s continued failure under several laws to assess and prevent pollution damage. climate change from the federal fossil fuel program. This includes damage to land, water, communities and endangered species. “

“The government is playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette with our future,” said Melissa Hornbein, senior counsel for the center. “The science is clear: in order to maintain an equal chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, approximately 60% of the world’s oil and gas must be left in the ground. I think we can all agree that a 50% chance of success is not a great chance when it comes to our planet’s ability to support life, yet the government is doubling down on fossil fuel extraction at precisely the moment. where it should brake. The announcement of these sales is particularly puzzling in light of President Biden’s executive actions on the climate and the Bureau of Land Management’s clear legal discretion over leasing. “

In January, the Biden administration ordered a moratorium on new oil and gas rentals pending a review of the program. The renewed rental plans, mostly in Wyoming and Colorado, follow a June court order that lifted the rental hiatus but retained the administration’s authority over federal oil and gas.

Despite the rental hiatus, the administration has approved more than 2,800 new drilling permits, WELC said, adding that “that rate of 351 per month exceeds the Trump administration’s 300 permits per month in fiscal 2018- 2020 “.

“It is appalling that the Home Office is considering allowing more climate destructive oil and gas extraction when it has broad legal authority not to lease this public land,” Michael said. Saul, senior lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Judges in several recent court decisions have agreed that it is illegal to authorize any new tenancies without considering potential damage to the climate, wildlife habitat and groundwater. Any analysis of the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and drilling will undoubtedly show that the federal fossil fuel program must end now. “

Biden’s approval of drilling permits comes despite renewal IPCC warnings and several analyzes showing that climate pollution caused by oil, gas and coal developments already producing in the world would push warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius. These analyzes, including by the International Energy Agency, show that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius does not require any new investment in fossil fuel projects.

In January, 574 climate, conservation, indigenous, religious and business groups sent President-elect Biden’s text for a proposal decree to use the full force of the law to prohibit the leasing and licensing of new fossil fuels on federal public lands and waters.

In April, more than 200 groups filed comments with the administration calling for a formal climate review of federal fossil fuel programs under the National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Lands Policy Management Act, Endangered Species Act and other laws.

“Federal lands and minerals are meant to be managed in trust for the public good,” said Erik Molvar of the Western Watersheds Project. “Solving the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis are very clearly top public priorities, and keeping federal lands and mineral deposits out of the oil and gas auction block is a key step in addressing both issues. . “

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