Calls for Reform as Oil, Gas Leasing on Public Lands Resumes
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
HELENA, Mont. -- Conservation groups in Montana are calling on the federal government to overhaul oil and gas leasing on public lands.
President Joe Biden paused leasing when he came into office, but a federal judge has overturned the moratorium.
On August 31st, the Bureau of Land Management proposed 14 parcels in Montana covering more than 62-hundred acres for a lease sale in February and is seeking public comment on the proposal.
Derf Johnson, staff attorney for the Montana Environmental Information Center, said the Biden administration recognized concerns with the leasing process when they issued the pause.
"America's public lands currently are leased for oil and gas through a system that is broken," Johnson contended. "It rips off taxpayers, it doesn't protect our environment or our climate, and there's a whole slew of administrative problems with the system."
In their letter to the state director of BLM for Montana and the Dakotas, the groups proposed seven reforms to the leasing process. They include limiting the quantity and scope of sales, requiring a royalty rate of at least 18.75% for all leases, and limiting participation by speculators.
The oil and gas industry group Western Energy Alliance initially challenged the pause, arguing Biden had overstepped his presidential authority.
Aubrey Bertram, staff attorney for Wild Montana, said there is an urgent need to curb carbon emissions on public lands. She noted if our public lands were a country, they would be the fifth-largest greenhouse-gas emitter in the world.
Bertram noted the Biden administration has ambitious climate goals, and fossil-fuel extraction on public lands will play an integral role.
"I think it's fair to say that the status quo is not going to get the administration to its goals when it comes to climate resiliency and economic recovery," Bertram asserted. "We know we need to do things differently, and this is a really important chance for the administration to put their money where their mouths are."
Bertram added 20 million acres of public land is already leased across the West. Last week, House Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee voted to include reforms to oil and gas leasing on public lands in the budget reconciliation package.
get more stories like this via email
Parents' rights groups are praising a plan to extend paid sick leave for many California workers, which is now on a fast track to pass. Gov…
Changes to a student-loan program for public-service employees is transforming the lives of Montanans who had their debts forgiven. In October…
Health and Wellness
When the Pueblo Community Health Center opened its 14,000 square-foot facility in 2003, Pueblo's east side, home to mostly minority residents…
Minnesota is building on efforts to meet the needs of its growing population of older adults, now becoming the 10th state to join AARP's network of …
The past year saw American workers reassessing their jobs. However, those shifts did not result in higher union membership at the national level…
This summer, a key initiative to boost school meal access during the pandemic will expire. In North Dakota, those working at the community level say …
New research suggests Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction event, on par with the one that ended the age of dinosaurs, already is under way. Noah Greenwald…
As local municipalities consider ways to use an influx of funds from the American Rescue Plan, some communities see it as an opportunity to support …