Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 13, 2016

Contact:  Eleanor Bravo, Food & Water Watch, (505) 730-8474,
Rebecca Sobel, WildEarth Guardians, (267) 402-0724,
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414,    

Amid Mounting Controversy, BLM Halts New Mexico Fossil Fuel Auction

SANTA FE, N.M.— In the wake of public pressure, the Bureau of Land Management today postponed its controversial July 20 lease sale to auction oil and gas leases across 13,000 acres in New Mexico. Earlier this week citizens discovered the sale location had been changed from Santa Fe, N.M. to Roswell, with only oil and gas representatives notified. Public outcry over the abrupt location change was followed by the BLM’s postponement of the sale to Sept. 1 to allow for more public involvement. The sale location, however, will remain in Roswell.

“Postponing this lease sale is a start, but cancelling it altogether is really what needs to happen,” said Rebecca Sobel, senior campaigner with WildEarth Guardians. “The Obama administration has leased 10 million acres. Industry holds leases that will last for decades. Not another acre should be leased under this controversial program.”

“The Bureau of Land Management must continue to be held accountable to include the public in their actions with what are supposed to be public lands,” said Eleanor Bravo with Food & Water Watch. “We will no longer tolerate secret deals.”

This is not the first time BLM has cancelled or postponed lease sales in the face of public pressure from the “Keep It in the Ground” movement. Other examples include a Utah sale in November and Washington D.C. and Montana sales in December. Protests have now occurred at every public lands oil and gas lease sale since September 2015, when the movement called on President Obama to end all new fossil fuel leasing on public lands.

“Relocating and postponing fossil fuel auctions to remote places, websites or later dates still doesn’t hide the dangerous disconnect between the administration’s climate rhetoric and its fossil fuel leasing,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The clock is ticking on the climate crisis, and each new lease makes a bad problem worse. It’s time for the president to shut the federal carbon pollution spigot for good.”

The American public owns nearly 650 million acres of federal public land and more than 1.7 billion acres of 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. An 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 “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 Public Lands, Private Profits, a report about the corporations that are profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands.

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

Download WildEarth Guardians’ formal petition calling on the Department of the Interior to analyze the climate impacts of the federal oil and gas leasing program and to place a moratorium on new leasing until that study is completed.

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

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