The Biden administration is working against U.S. climate goals and failing to protect communities, water and wildlife by auctioning oil and gas leases on public lands under the Inflation Reduction Act, climate and conservationists said in formal comments submitted today (NM comments, WY comments).
Today’s comments respond to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s first proposed lease sales under the new climate law, which conditions renewable energy rights-of-way on new oil and gas leasing. Next spring the Bureau will auction leases covering 250,000 acres in Wyoming and 10,000 acres in New Mexico and Kansas.
“President Biden’s marked reversal from what he told voters on the campaign trail regarding his commitment to desperately overdue climate action to his administration’s policies promoting the fossil fuel industry is astounding,” said Morgan O’Grady with the Western Environmental Law Center. “Not only is leasing hundreds of thousands of acres of public land keeping us on a trajectory toward climate catastrophe, it sells out the frontline communities that were promised climate and environmental justice by President Biden. It is existentially sad.”
“We can’t avoid catastrophic warming if we keep expanding fossil fuel extraction, and the Inflation Reduction Act is no excuse for failing to properly evaluate the harms of this leasing,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Moving ahead with these leases is pushing the accelerator on climate change. The Biden administration can stop this ecocide by phasing out oil and gas extraction. We’re running out of time.”
The groups said the agency should complete a comprehensive environmental analysis before deciding whether to authorize the lease sales. Any federal oil and gas extraction should align with the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, they said. And they called on the administration to enact a nationwide decline of oil and gas extraction to near zero by 2035.
Several analyses show that climate pollution from the world’s already producing fossil fuel fields, if fully developed, will push warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius. Avoiding such warming requires ending new investment in fossil fuel projects and phasing out production to keep as much as 40% of fossil fuels in already developed fields in the ground.
Frontline and climate groups have slammed the Inflation Reduction Act’s oil and gas leasing provisions for perpetuating the climate crisis and decades of environmental injustice wrought on people living in sacrifice zones by fossil fuel companies and the federal government.
Thousands of organizations and communities across the U.S. have called on President Biden in formal legal petitions to halt federal fossil fuel expansion, phase out production to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and develop new rules under long-ignored legal authorities to achieve those goals.
Biden has ignored those petitions despite his campaign promises to end new oil and gas leasing and drilling on public lands, and regardless of numerous executive orders making climate a central priority of his administration.
The Western Environmental Law Center submitted today’s comments on behalf of Citizens Caring for the Future, the Center for Biological Diversity, Waterkeeper Alliance, Friends of the Earth, WildEarth Guardians, and the Sierra Club.