Lease sales to focus on highest and best use of America’s public lands, reflecting an 80 percent reduction from nominated acreage
Date: Friday, April 15, 2022
WASHINGTON — In compliance with an injunction from the Western District of Louisiana, the Department of the Interior is taking action that reflects the balanced approach to energy development and management of our nation’s public lands called for in the agency’s November 2021 report on the Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Program. Today the Department announced that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will post notices for significantly reformed onshore lease sales that prioritize the American people’s interests in public lands and moves forward with addressing deficiencies in the federal oil and gas leasing program.
“How we manage our public lands and waters says everything about what we value as a nation. For too long, the federal oil and gas leasing programs have prioritized the wants of extractive industries above local communities, the natural environment, the impact on our air and water, the needs of Tribal Nations, and, moreover, other uses of our shared public lands,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Today, we begin to reset how and what we consider to be the highest and best use of Americans’ resources for the benefit of all current and future generations.”
As the November report laid out, federal oil and gas leasing programs and their administration have remained virtually unchanged for decades, in spite of considerable changes in market conditions and technologies, as well as increased understanding of the programs’ significant environmental and climate impacts. The United States faces an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and accelerate its transition to a clean energy economy. The Interior Department has a central role and responsibility in meeting these challenges.
On Monday, the BLM will issue final environmental assessments and sale notices for upcoming oil and gas lease sales that reflect this strategic approach. The lease sales will incorporate many of the recommendations in the Department’s report, including ensuring Tribal consultation and broad community input, reliance of the best available science including analysis of GHG emissions, and a first-ever increase in the royalty rate for new competitive leases to 18.75 percent, to ensure fair return for the American taxpayer and on par with rates charged by states and private landowners.
The BLM’s sale notices reflect the Interior Secretary’s broad authority to determine lands that are eligible and available for leasing. This pragmatic approach focuses leasing on parcels near existing development and infrastructure, such as gathering lines that can help reduce venting and flaring, and will help conserve the resilience of intact public lands and functioning ecosystems. The BLM has prioritized avoiding important wildlife habitat and migration corridors and sensitive cultural areas. As a part of its environmental analysis, the agency disclosed GHG emissions and the social cost of GHG emissions, which provided important context for the agency’s decision-making.
The BLM assessed potentially available and eligible acreage in Alabama, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. It began analyzing 646 parcels on roughly 733,000 acres that had been previously nominated for leasing by energy companies. As a result of robust environmental review, engagement with Tribes and communities, and prioritizing the American people’s broad interests in public lands, the final sale notices will offer approximately 173 parcels on roughly 144,000 acres, an 80 percent reduction from the acreage originally nominated.