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October 7, 2022

Biden Administration Announces Plan to Unnecessarily Expand Fossil Fuel Leasing on Public Lands in New Mexico, Wyoming, and More States TBA in Coming Weeks; Also Releases Timeline and Environmental Impact Statement for Gulf Lease Sales 259 & 261

The Department of the Interior cites the Inflation Reduction Act in its plan to expand oil and gas leasing on public lands.

Contacts

Jackson Chiappinelli, Earthjustice, (585) 402-2005, jchiappinelli@earthjustice.org

Washington, D.C.

Yesterday, the Biden administration announced plans to unnecessarily expand oil and gas leasing on public lands, which would lock the United States into decades more of carbon pollution, further endangering the planet and harming frontline communities.

The Biden administration said it will post for public comment a review of 45 parcels totaling 10,123 acres in New Mexico, and 209 parcels totaling 251,087 acres in Wyoming, with scoping notices from other states to be posted in the coming weeks.

Interior also released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for two Gulf of Mexico oil and gas lease sales – Lease Sales 259 and 261, which it says the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) directs it hold by March 31, 2023, and September 30, 2023.

However, the IRA does not require the administration to hold any oil and gas lease sales on public lands. Nor does it mandate any particular results offshore. Rather, Congress, through both the IRA and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, empowers Interior to determine the size, shape, or conditions, of offshore lease sales and preserves Interior’s authority to decide whether to issue a lease. Regardless, any oil and gas lease sale would first have to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

“While Interior’s plan doesn’t equal a final decision, any significant new leasing for oil and gas now is the wrong approach,” said Earthjustice senior attorney Michael Freeman. “The IRA does not mandate any leasing for oil and gas onshore or mandate that agencies issue particular leases offshore. The administration has full authority to choose how it implements the IRA and must use that authority to protect affected communities and live up to our climate commitments.”

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