Biden administration sued over onshore leases as offshore lease plan expires

Biden administration sued over onshore leases as offshore lease plan expires

July 1, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

An oil drilling rig is seen September 29, 2010 near Ray, North Dakota. The well is being drilled into the Bakken Formation, one of the largest contiguous deposits of oil and natural gas in the United States. It is an interbedded sequence of black shale, siltstone and sandstone that underlies large areas of northwestern North Dakota, northeastern Montana, southern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba.  AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo by KAREN BLEIER / AFP) (Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images)

Oil and gas companies have been less than excited to bid on onshore leases in a handful of states but environmental groups would prefer if they didn’t lay claim to those spots at all.

At the behest of a federal judge, the Biden administration moved forward with a limited amount of onshore oil and gas lease auctions on Wednesday and Thursday, albeit with a less than enthusiastic response from the fossil fuel industry. Part of that may come from the fact that royalty rates rose for the first time in nearly a century, increasing from 12.5% to 18.75%. The sales encompass eight states—Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming—and span a total of 128,510 acres. Also coinciding with the auctions? The filing of a lawsuit by environmental groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and others urging the Biden administration to abandon leasing on public lands altogether.

“Overwhelming scientific evidence shows us that burning fossil fuels from existing leases on federal lands is incompatible with a livable climate,” Melissa Hornbein, senior attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, said in a statement. “In spite of this administration’s climate commitments, the Department of the Interior is choosing to resume oil and gas leasing. The very least the BLM could do is acknowledge the connected nature of these six lease sales and their collective impact on federal lands and the earth’s climate. Its failure to do so is an attempt to water down the climate effects of their decision to continue leasing and is a clear abdication of its responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act.” The Western Environmental Law Center is representing the plaintiffs, which include 10 groups.