Joe Biden’s pause on oil and gas development in public lands divides conservationists and industry advocates

Conservationists are cheering the Biden administration’s 60-day pause in developing new energy in public lands as an opportunity to fix an old leasehold program that has not been amended in decades. Oil and gas producers are not happy and warn of severe economic shocks from the decision announced Thursday.

“Bowing to environmental left to fulfill the campaign’s promise and prove its staff with climate change activists has real consequences for Westerners,” said Kathleen Sagama of the Western Energy Alliance. “This is a sacrifice of people’s real livelihoods and it does nothing for climate change. If we don’t produce oil and natural gas in the West, it will be produced elsewhere, and if it comes from outside, it will have a greater impact on climate change.”

Oil and gas harvested from federal lands accounts for about a quarter of the total annual production of the United States but pays many of the bills.

The Bureau of Land Management has about 26.3 million acres on lease to oil and gas producers at the moment, including 2.5 million acres in Colorado.

more than $ 8 billion in proceeds from oil and gas ownership – set at 12.5% ​​in the Minerals Leasing Act of 1920 – as well as fees from other natural resources in FY2020 were distributed to states and provinces, the Reclamation Fund and the US Treasury The Treasury then distributed $ 524 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This preservation fund has received more than $ 20 billion in the past 50 years, and the Great American Outdoors Act last year directed $ 900 million in oil and gas revenue into the fund each year.

The Biden ordered the suspension of new leases and drilling On public lands the influx of oil and gas dollars threatens conservation. It could also weaken Western economies that depend on the energy industry.

to me The study last month by the University of Wyoming Energy economics professor Timothy Considine estimated that Colorado would lose $ 586 million a year between 2021 and 2025 with new public land leases suspended and $ 700 million a year in those five years under an outright ban on exploration. A Considine study shows that Colorado records $ 59 million annually in oil and gas tax revenue every year through 2024 under the lease suspension and $ 73 million annually through 2024 under the exploration ban.

Across eight states, Considine showed tax revenue losses of $ 2 billion annually through 2024 under the Prohibition of Excavation. By 2040, Considine concluded that the nation’s gross domestic product will drop $ 670.5 billion, and job losses will exceed 351,000 annually in those eight states.

The Ute Indian tribe in Utah’s Uinta and Ouray Reserves on Thursday asked Acting Home Secretary Scott de la Vega to exempt the tribes from suspending energy development.

“Your order is a direct attack on our economy, our sovereignty, and our right to self-determination,” as stated in the letter sent to de la Vega.

Many conservationists hope that the temporary suspension of the Bureau of Land Management for Drilling and Leasing for Oil and Gas Development will trigger a comprehensive overhaul of natural resource management programs. One Western economist said the reform may include expanding financing instruments for conservation and public lands that depend less on the country’s oil and gas production.

The Great American Outdoors Act is supposed to direct up to $ 1.3 billion in fees collected from energy producers on BLM lands toward maintenance work accumulated on National Park Service and National Forest Service lands. In Colorado, there are 12 Park Service properties $ 238.2 million in delayed projects, Led by $ 78 million in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Great American Outdoors Act, approved by Congress and the Trump administration last fall, directed $ 900 million annually in marine energy production to the permanently funded Land and Water Conservation Fund. And other proposals, such as Restoring Wildlife Law in America, Competing for more energy financing to conserve it.

More: States, land managers are still awaiting details about conservation funding under the Great American Outdoors Act

Last year the Ministry of the Interior It raised $ 113.7 million in revenue from oil, gas and coal And the extraction of other natural resources on federal lands in Colorado. In fiscal year 2019, the office issued 1,841 new lease contracts, including 62 in Colorado, down from 105 the previous year and a high of 613 in 2001.

Last year, Colorado oil and gas revenue fell more than 50% compared to 2019, the lowest group since at least 2003. Fluctuations in the energy market and Reduced revenue collected By the Home Office – $ 7.6 billion in natural resource revenues collected in 2020 was the third lowest since 2003 – creating revenue buffers, making it difficult to budget for conservation.

But even in a bear market, those energy revenues easily reach the $ 1.3 billion that the Great American Outdoors Act directed toward protecting land, says Sgamma, who argues that the president’s ban on oil and gas development violates the 1920 Mineral Leasing Act and will be rejected by courts on appeal. .

“So the only threat at the moment to fund conservation is from the Biden administration, not the market,” she said.

Tate Watkins is an economist with the Center for Property and Environmental Research, a Montana research group that explores market-based solutions to environmental problems. Last year, he warned the marriage of funding the maintenance of federal energy revenues. He believes that pauses in energy and drilling leases could be a “wake-up call” to begin exploring other avenues for financing conservation that depend less on oil and gas.

“There’s a lot of mess in the old systems with these programs. It’s an outdated financing system for taking oil and gas money and saying we’re going to keep some land with it,” Watkins said.The best way to finance conservation and recreationA report last fall suggested a user-based system that reflects hunting and fishing licenses to help support public lands.

“If the advocates of recreation and conservation bring significant resources to the table, they will have more political influence when it comes to public land issues,” he said. “Maybe this pause in energy development is a wake-up call to say, ‘Hey, let’s start thinking about these alternatives before we finally have to find other financing in the next decade or two.”

Ann Morgan, a BLM executive for 30 years who served as director of the Colorado State Bureau from 1997 to 2002, said the hiatus is a good opportunity to hear from conservation groups as well as oil and gas companies and associations about reforming a program that has not changed in decades despite criticism. Ongoing and industry contributions to climate change.

Morgan would like to see BLM renew its land use regulations to determine where oil and gas development is – and is not – appropriate.

More: Colorado is suing the Bureau of Land Management over William Perry Bendley’s Western Cliffs Management Plan

“About 90% of BLM’s land is open to oil and gas, and anyone can request anonymously to put these lands up for auction regardless of the values ​​they may own,” Morgan said. “The BLM should be responsible for deciding whether, where and where oil and gas leases should take place on public land.”

Morgan believes that the Biden administration and Home Secretary Candidate Deep Haaland You will continue to tamper with public land administration and the natural resource industry on federal turf.

“There is no doubt that conservation and natural resource management in general are underfunded and we need to look at a wide range of funding.” “There is no single source of funding that fits the bill.” “I expect a lot of these types of things to happen once the new secretary is hired,” she said. In her position and shift her priorities to various agencies, including BLM.


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