Feds reject proposal to phase out oil and gas drilling in New Mexico, US

Federal officials rejected a petition from New Mexico environmental groups to phase out oil and gas drilling on federal land, citing several environment and climate-related policies enacted since President Joe Biden took office in 2021.

WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups filed the petition and a lawsuit in April, petitioning the Department of Interior and its Bureau of Land Management to initiate a rulemaking that would curb oil and gas production on federal land.

This would have a significant impact on New Mexico, the second-largest, oil-producing state in the U.S. where about half of operations are on federal land.

The petition cited statements made by Biden during his campaign for President that he would stop drilling on federal lands and waters, arguing the administration continued leading public land to oil companies throughout the President’s term.

Most recently in New Mexico, the BLM sold leases to about 8,596 acres of federal public land in the southeast Permian Basin region and in Cheyenne County, Kansas in a sale that netted about $79 million dollars in revenue to the agency.

The BLM was also planning another lease sale in November, offering about 596 acres in leases in Eddy and Lea counties and in Oklahoma.

More:$4.7B spent by Denver oil and gas company in 2 sales to enter booming Permian Basin

The leases of federal land are active for 10 years or as long as oil and gas is produced.

Ongoing oil production in New Mexico and the U.S. was causing pollution and environmental degradation, the groups argued, leading to worsening climate change throughout the world.

“The Department of the Interior continues to bend over backward to accommodate the fossil fuel industry,” said Jeremy Nichols at Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians.

“If the Department would actually take comprehensive and meaningful steps to aid our nation’s transition away from oil, gas and coal, and truly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it would save them time and money and help spare this country the costly consequences of climate change.”

In denying the petition, the DOI contended it already had a “robust rulemaking agenda” to address climate change and lacked resources to develop the policy suggested by the groups, via a June 27 letter from DOI Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Mineral Management Laura Daniel-Davis.

“I have considered your petition and have decided not to initiate the rulemaking you requested for the reasons discussed in this letter because the Department has a robust rulemaking agenda already underway to address the climate crisis and implement reforms to our conventional energy programs and has insufficient resources to undertake the proposed rulemaking at this time,” read the letter.

She pointed to the August 2022 passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which increased fees and rates paid by companies to the BLM for oil and gas leases, added conditions requiring renewable energy rights of way in exchange for offering oil and gas leases and adding fees for expressions of interest when oil companies nominate parcels of land for lease auctions.

Daniel-Davis also argued the federal government was underway with several other rulemakings targeting oil and gas pollution, policies that sought to reduce air pollution, push renewable energy projects and tighten requirements for oil and gas production on public land.

“This Administration shares your concerns regarding the urgency of the climate crisis and is directing its limited resources in an effort to address them,” the letter read.

In total, the Center for Biological Diversity reported the Biden administration so far issued 6,430 permits for oil and gas drilling on federal land, with more than half in the Permian Basin – a shale region that spans southeast New Mexico and West Texas, producing about 5.7 million barrels per day of oil, more than any other onshore region of the U.S.

To avoid global warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the benchmark set by the international community that could cause extreme weather events, the Center said new investments in fossil fuels must end.

A nationwide leasing ban could cut carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, the Center reported, and fossil fuels yet to be leased pose up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution.

“Leaving the fossil fuel industry in control of the oil and gas spigot is an appalling abdication of climate leadership on public lands,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The administration acknowledges the urgency to address climate change and meanwhile avoids every opportunity to take meaningful action on the fossil fuels under its control.”

Source: https://www.currentargus.com/