The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
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Rampant Biden Administration Oil, Gas Drilling Approvals Continue to Undermine U.S. Climate Commitments

Massive Fossil Fuel Expansion on Pace With Trump Administration

Federal data show the Biden administration approved 9,779 permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands in its first three years, nearly keeping pace with the Trump administration’s 9,982 drilling-permit approvals in its first three years.

The Biden administration’s policy of oil and gas expansion contradicts the clear climate science that fossil fuel growth must be stopped and governments must phase out fossil fuels to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. In December the United States and other countries agreed to a phasedown and ultimate phaseout of fossil fuel extraction.

“Given the urgency of the climate crisis and our nation’s pledge to phase out oil and gas extraction, the Biden administration needs to pump the brakes right now on issuing drilling permits on our public lands,” said Jeremy Nichols of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time for the administration to show the world what true climate leadership looks like.”

The pace of new oil- and gas-drilling approvals stands in contrast to the administration’s action last week to temporarily pause new gas-export projects. While met with support, the pause is not permanent and does not stem new fossil fuel production.

“The temporary pause on new gas-exports projects is a good step, but for it to be meaningful, the Biden administration needs to make it permanent and stop rubberstamping more fossil fuel production,” said Nichols.

More than 6,000 of the drilling permits granted by the administration are on public lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s New Mexico office, followed by 1,793 permits in Wyoming and several hundred each in Utah, Colorado, California and North Dakota.

Scientific analyses show climate pollution from the world’s already producing fossil fuel developments, if fully developed, will push warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius. Avoiding such warming requires ending new investment in fossil fuel projects and phasing out production to keep as much as 40% of already developed fields in the ground.

The Biden administration has not enacted any policies to significantly limit drilling permits or manage a decline of production to avoid 1.5 degrees of warming. It supported Sen. Joe Manchin’s demands to add provisions to the Inflation Reduction Act that will lock in fossil fuel leasing for the next decade.

The administration has also ignored petitions from hundreds of climate, conservation, Indigenous and environmental justice groups calling for a phaseout of federal oil and gas production.

In June 2023 the Interior Department rejected a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and others to wind down federal fossil fuel extraction. The Center sued the Interior Department in November over the failure of the agency to release records explaining why it denied the petition.

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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