Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 18, 2016

Contact: My-Linh Le, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7156,

Legal Protest Challenges Fossil Fuels Auction on 75,000 Acres in Nevada

Fracking, Drilling Threaten Climate, Sensitive Wildlife, Public Lands

RENO, Nev.— Conservation groups filed a formal administrative protest Friday against a Bureau of Land Management plan to auction off nearly 75,000 acres of publicly owned fossil fuels in Lander and Nye counties in Nevada. The oil and gas on these parcels, administered by the Battle Mountain District Office, contain an estimated 419,983 tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

“Every new federal fossil fuel lease is likely to result in more fracking — which entails a number of serious concerns, such as water depletion and contamination, and contributes to the already looming climate crisis,” said My-Linh Le of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Slowing climate change and its already occurring effects, including the historic droughts happening now all over the world, requires that remaining fossil fuels be kept in the ground, and we should start with the public lands that President Obama controls.”

The protest, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and Great Basin Resource Watch, calls on the BLM to halt its auction plans, to end all new federal fossil fuel leasing and to ban fracking and other unconventional well stimulation activities. This ban is necessary to preserve any chance of averting catastrophic climate disruption and to protect imperiled wildlife and public lands. It challenges the Bureau’s refusal to undertake any environmental analysis for impacts relating to greenhouse gas emissions and sensitive wildlife in its decision to auction the fossil fuels. In violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Bureau has instead attempted to rely on outdated analyses for overarching resource management plans dating back to 1986 and 1997.

In addition to causing greenhouse gas pollution, the auction and subsequent drilling and fracking threaten several sensitive species characterized by the Nevada Natural Heritage Program as “critically imperiled and especially vulnerable to extinction or extirpation due to extreme rarity.” These include the greater sage grouse, Big Smokey Valley tui chub, Big Smokey Valley wood nymph, currant milkvetch, pallid skipper and Beatley buckwheat, all of which occur on the 74,702 acres to be auctioned. As with potential greenhouse gas emissions, the BLM completely failed to analyze impacts to these species in its decision to auction land for fossil fuel leases.

The protest is part of a rapidly growing national movement calling on President Obama to define his climate legacy by halting new federal fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans — a step that would keep up to 450 billion tons of potential carbon pollution in the ground. “Keep It in the Ground” rallies opposed to federal fossil fuel auctions have been growing across the country — in Alaska, Colorado, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Reno, Nev., where two rallies have taken place — and have caused several of those auctions to be canceled or postponed. 

Download the protest here.

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 make 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 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 (D-Vt.) and others introduced 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 a letter from more than 400 groups and climate leaders urging President Obama to halt new federal fossil fuel leasing.  

Download Grounded: The President’s 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).

Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet.

Download Public Lands, Private Profits (this report details the corporations profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands).

Go back