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New Data: Biden’s First Year Drilling Permitting Stomps Trump’s By 34%

Thousands of Permits OK’d Despite President’s Authority to End Drilling by 2035.
WASHINGTON -

New federal data shows the Biden administration approved 3,557 permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands in its first year, far outpacing the Trump administration’s first-year total of 2,658.

Nearly 2,000 of the drilling permits were approved on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management’s New Mexico office, followed by 285 in Montana and North Dakota, and 191 in Utah. In California, the Biden administration approved 187 permits — more than twice the 71 drilling permits Trump approved in that state in his first year.

“Biden’s runaway drilling approvals are a spectacular failure of climate leadership,” said Taylor McKinnon at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Avoiding catastrophic climate change requires ending new fossil fuel extraction, but Biden is racing in the opposite direction.”

On Wednesday more than 360 climate, conservation, Indigenous, environmental justice and community groups petitioned the Biden administration to use its executive authority to phase out oil and gas production on public lands and oceans.

The petition provides a framework to manage a decline of oil and gas production to near zero by 2035 through rulemaking, using long-dormant provisions of the Mineral Leasing Act, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the National Emergencies Act. Without such action, it will become increasingly difficult for the United States to meet its pledge to help avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming and its unprecedented social, environmental and economic damage.

“Biden squandered precious time seeking climate action from a broken Congress,” said McKinnon. “We need executive action now to meet the climate emergency with the urgency it demands, starting with ending the fossil fuel extraction the president controls.”

Several analyses show that climate pollution from the world’s already-producing fossil fuel developments, if fully developed, would push warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius, and that avoiding such warming requires ending new fossil fuel projects.

At November’s COP26 summit in Glasgow, Biden called climate change “an existential threat to human existence” and pledged to cut U.S. emissions by up to 51% over the next nine years. Days later the administration offered 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing and plans to offer more than 300,000 acres of public lands leases in March.

The Department of the Interior’s review of the federal oil and gas programs effectively ignored climate, calling instead for adjustments to royalties, bids and bonding.

Federal fossil fuel production causes nearly a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution, worsening the climate and extinction crises and disproportionately harming Black, Brown, Indigenous and low-wealth communities.

Background

Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate policy proposals in recent years.

Oil, gas and coal extraction uses mines, well pads, gas lines, roads and other infrastructure that destroys habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Oil spills and other harms from offshore drilling have done immense damage to ocean wildlife and coastal communities. Fracking and mining also pollute watersheds and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people.

Federal fossil fuels that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution; those already leased to industry contain up to 43 billion tons.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. 

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