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Flames from a flaring pit are seen near a well in the Bakken Oil Field in California. (Photo: Orjan F. Ellingvag/Corbis via Getty Images)

'A Shattered Promise': Biden Blasted for Resuming Fossil Fuel Leasing on Public Lands and Waters

"Biden is restarting a broken leasing system that is ripping off taxpayers, polluting our air, lands, and waters, and killing us."

Jessica Corbett

Advocacy groups on Tuesday blasted the Biden administration for resuming oil and gas lease sales for public lands and waters as the United States faces multiple disasters exacerbated by the fossil fuel driven-climate emergency.

"Committing more public land to filthy fossil fuel extraction is disastrous policy that will only worsen the climate and extinction crises."
—Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity

Despite President Joe Biden's campaign promises to ban new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters, the U.S. Interior Department confirmed earlier this month that the administration would resume the practice in response to a federal court ruling while appealing the decision, which critics called "insane policy in light of the climate crisis."

After the Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday posted notices for lease sales covering over 16,500 acres across Alabama, Montana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Oklahoma—and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management shared an update on a Gulf of Mexico oil lease sale—climate action advocates issued scathing condemnation.

"Committing more public land to filthy fossil fuel extraction is disastrous policy that will only worsen the climate and extinction crises," declared Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. "We're out of time. The Biden administration must move fast to bring an orderly end to the federal fossil fuel program."

Nicole Ghio, senior Fossil Fuels Program manager for Friends of the Earth, said that "considering the climate is heading down a catastrophic, unsustainable path, stopping new oil and gas leasing that would lock in decades of fossil fuel extraction is the least Biden could do."

"Instead, Biden is restarting a broken leasing system that is ripping off taxpayers, polluting our air, lands, and waters, and killing us," Ghio added. "Big Oil's profits shouldn't be prioritized over the livability of our planet."

WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program director Jeremy Nichols also took aim at the president over his broken campaign promises.

"These new plans to sell public lands for fracking are nothing but a shattered promise from the Biden administration to put climate, justice, and health first," said Nichols. "Rest assured, we will be doing everything within our power to block these plans. We simply can't frack our way to a safe climate and can't afford to keep selling public lands to the oil and gas industry."

"Clearly President Biden's promises aren't worth the paper they're written on," he added. "Given this, it's clear that we need to continue fighting like hell for the climate even under a Biden administration."

In a January executive order, Biden had paused new oil and gas leasing and directed the secretary of the interior to lead a review of the practice, "including potential climate and other impacts associated with oil and gas activities on public lands or in offshore waters."

Multiple states, led by Louisiana, challenged the president's pause of the program, resulting in the June court ruling the administration is appealing. As Common Dreams reported last week, the Interior Department analysis that Biden called for is ongoing.

"With the summer quickly coming to a close, the American people are still waiting on the Biden administration to release its public lands leasing report and chart a new course that puts taxpayers and the environment ahead of oil and gas company executives looking to line their pockets," Kyle Herrig, president of watchdog group Accountable.US, noted Tuesday.

"The slow pace of change on this critical issue is deeply troubling," Herrig said. "If the administration is going to meet its conservation and climate goals, it needs to get moving and reform the public lands leasing program without further delay."

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