BLM Proposal Continues New Oil and Gas Leasing on Public Lands
Monday, August 7, 2023
July was the hottest month in recorded history, but critics of the Bureau of Land Management's new oil and gas rules warned the proposal ignores the primary driver of a warming planet: the burning of fossil fuels.
Melissa Hornbein, senior attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, said by continuing to lease public lands for oil and gas development, the BLM is missing an opportunity to create a just transition to clean energy that protects workers and communities.
"And to provide mechanisms for economic support for operators who need to phase out of federal fossil fuels," Hornbein explained. "There's going to be a lot of money in recovering abandoned and unreclaimed wells, and there's a lot of work that needs to be done."
The Biden Administration has defended the rule to increase royalties companies have to pay, and raise bonding requirements to prevent operators from abandoning well sites. Industry groups have called those measures draconian, and say they will discourage development.
The BLM will accept public comments on its proposal through Sept. 22.
The new rule underscores the BLM's commitment to environmental justice, but Hornbein countered the proposal falls short of actually guaranteeing protections for low-income communities and people of color disproportionately impacted throughout the fossil fuel production chain.
"There really needs to be assurances within the rules themselves -- and that take it outside of BLM's discretion -- that basically grant affirmative protections for those communities who are already suffering the health impacts of living near these types of development," Hornbein contended.
Hornbein argued the BLM is shirking its legal discretion to set the stage for a managed phase out of federal oil and gas leasing.
As people in Wyoming and across the U.S. grapple with unprecedented heat waves, wildfires, flooding, prolonged drought and other extreme weather events, called the agency's decision to rearrange deck chairs instead of deploying lifeboats "deeply disturbing."
"In light of what we're seeing in terms of actual on-the-ground climate impacts right now -- not impacts in the future; what's happening now -- that we know will get worse with continued greenhouse gas emissions," Hornbein emphasized.
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