Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 2, 2016

Contact: Taylor McKinnon, (801) 300-2414,

Obama Fossil Fuel Auction Adds 29 Million Tons of Climate Pollution,
Threatens Imperiled Species in Wyoming

CHEYENNE, Wyo.— The Obama administration on Tuesday leased more than 30,000 acres of public land in Wyoming to the fossil fuel industry that, if fully developed, will release about 29 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution. The 21 parcels that were part of the Bureau of Land Management auction also include habitat for imperiled Canada lynx and greater sage grouse.

The estimated 29 million tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution is equivalent to about eight years’ worth of pollution from a coal-fired power plant. The BLM, however, refused to analyze the sale’s climate-pollution impact. It continues a national program of new federal fossil fuel leasing that is incompatible with U.S. climate goals; recent analyses show that meeting Paris Agreement targets requires limiting fossil fuel development to that which is already under production.

“The public needs to be aware of the ongoing disturbing contradictions with Obama administration’s climate policy,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “With one hand the United States has committed to carbon pollution reductions under the Paris Agreement, while with the other hand, it continues to auction off America’s public lands, wildlife habitat and waters to dangerous dirty energy development.”

The leased parcels also contain habitat for imperiled species. One parcel contains protected critical habitat for Canada lynx, which is protected under the Endangered Species Act. All 21 of the parcels contain identified habitat for greater sage grouse; seven contain priority habitat, that have the most dense populations of the remaining sage grouse. The Obama administration earlier erred against endangered species action protections for the iconic bird, relying instead on ineffective conservation measures that are not based on best science in newly revised BLM resource-management plans. The BLM’s failure to protect sage grouse habitat in Tuesday’s lease sale directly conflicts with its own instructions to prioritize lease sales outside of identified sage grouse habitat with the express goal of limiting conflict and protecting important habitat.

Tuesday’s lease sale was met by “Keep It in the Ground” climate protesters joining in a growing national call for the Obama administration to end its federal fossil fuel leasing programs altogether. The Center for Biological Diversity, alongside the Sierra Club and Great Old Broads for Wilderness, administratively protested the lease sale in September.

On behalf of the American people, the U.S. federal government manages nearly 650 million acres of public land and more than 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf — and the fossil fuels beneath them. This includes federal public land, which makes up about a third of the U.S. land area, and oceans like Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Seaboard. These places and the fossil fuels beneath them are held in trust for the public by the federal government; federal fossil fuel leasing is administered by the Department of the Interior.

Over the past decade, the combustion of federal fossil fuels has resulted in nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. A 2015 report by EcoShift Consulting, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, found that remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. As of earlier this year, 67 million acres of federal fossil fuel were already leased to industry, an area more than 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

Last year Sens. Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (I-Vt.) and others introduced the Keep It In the Ground Act (S. 2238) legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later President Obama canceled the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying, “Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

Download the September 2015 “Keep It in the Ground” letter to President Obama.

Download Grounded: The Presidents Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground (this report details the legal authorities with which a president can halt new federal fossil fuel leases). 

Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels (this report quantifies the volume and potential greenhouse gas emissions of remaining federal fossil fuels) and The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet. 

Download Over-leased: How Production Horizons of Already Leased Federal Fossil Fuels Outlast Global Carbon Budgets.

Download Critical Gulf: The Vital Importance of Ending Fossil Fuel Leasing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Download Public Lands, Private Profits about the corporations profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands.

Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s legal petition calling on the Obama administration to halt all new offshore fossil fuel leasing.

Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s legal petition with 264 other groups calling on the Obama administration to halt all new onshore fossil fuel leasing.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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