Activists Decry Biden’s ‘Reckless’ Resumption of Fossil Fuel Leases on Public Lands

Jerri-Lynn here. Biden’s announcement Friday to resume fossil fuel lease sales for public lands  represents yet another broken campaign promise- and like his failure to do anything significant about student loans, will likely lead young people to abstain from voting come November.

By Brett Wilkins. Originally published at Common Dreams

Activists condemned Friday’s announcement by the Biden administration that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will resume oil and gas lease sales on public lands as yet another betrayal of President Joe Biden’s promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle the climate emergency.

The U.S. Interior Department explained Friday afternoon that the lease sale resumption is in compliance with a 2021 federal injunction blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary pause on new leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters.

The department described the onshore oil and gas lease sales as “significantly reformed,” while announcing a “first-ever increase in the royalty rate for new competitive leases to 18.75%,” up from the 12.5% minimum rate required by law.

While the progressive watchdog Accountable.US applauded the administration’s decision to raise the royalty rate, most climate campaigners decried the resumption of the fossil fuel lease sales amid a worsening planetary emergency.

“It is never a good sign when the president announces something at 5:00 pm on a Friday. But President Biden can’t get away with this disastrous climate decision,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement. “The fact of the matter is that more drilling won’t solve high gas prices right now—so why is Biden breaking his campaign promise to stop drilling on public lands?”

The Western Environmental Law Center noted that “the communities most at risk from new fossil fuel extraction are primarily Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples, people of the global majority, and those on the frontlines of fossil fuel industry expansion. These are the same communities that turned out in record numbers to get Biden elected in 2020 and who have since been urging Biden to use his executive authority to fulfill his campaign promise and ban new federal fossil fuel projects.”

Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity, argued that “the Biden administration’s claim that it must hold these lease sales is pure fiction and a reckless failure of climate leadership.”

“It’s as if they’re ignoring the horror of firestorms, floods, and megadroughts, and accepting climate catastrophes as business as usual,” she added. “These so-called reforms are 20 years too late and will only continue to fuel the climate emergency. These lease sales should be shelved and the climate-destroying federal fossil fuel programs brought to an end.”

Collin Rees, U.S. program manager at Oil Change International, asserted that “in the midst of a climate emergency and a fossil-fueled war that has exposed the dangers of fossil fuel dependency, President Biden’s decision to double down on leasing new public lands for fossil fuel development is a disastrous choice.”

Rees continued:

There’s no amount of regulation that can change the facts—”significantly reformed” oil and gas lease sales will still result in selling off our public lands for deadly extraction that’s hurting communities and driving the climate crisis. Increasing royalty rates may even result in furthering state and federal reliance on oil and gas leasing revenue, just as the science is clear that we need to be stopping all expansion of fossil fuel extraction.

This is an ugly betrayal of Joe Biden’s campaign promises and his administration’s rhetoric on environmental justice and climate action. Biden is choosing to stand with polluters over people at the expense of frontline communities and the future of the planet.

True energy independence means rejecting fossil fuel expansion and ending Big Oil’s greed while rapidly building out renewable energy on public lands and beyond.

Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager at Friends of the Earth, recalled that as a presidential candidate, “Biden promised to end new oil and gas leasing on public lands,” but now he is “prioritizing oil executive profits over future generations.”

“Biden’s Interior Department has even issued permits to drill at a rate faster than the Trump administration,” she added. “Now, the Bureau of Land Management is preparing to hold its first public lands lease sale, despite having no legal obligation to do so. If Biden wants to be a climate leader, he must stop auctioning off our public lands to Big Oil.”

Sunrise Movement’s Prakash warned of electoral consequences for Biden’s failure to fulfill his climate promises, which included a pledge that there would be “no more drilling on federal lands, period, period, period, period.”

The president has already come under fire from climate and environmental campaigners for his plan to auction more than 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to fossil fuel companies—an effort that was blocked by a federal judge in January.

“This is why young people are doubting the political process altogether,” she said. “If Biden wants to solve for voter turnout in 2022, he should actually deliver on the things he promised, not move farther away from them. On November 8, 2022 we don’t want to hear anyone asking why young people didn’t vote. Biden is actively turning voters away. If we’re going to combat fascism and win in 2022, he must be a leader and course-correct. This election and our futures depend on it.”

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  1. Neohnomad

    So a thought slammed up side my head a few weeks back about this issue.

    Natural gas and oil fields are never situated under only one persons land… If this resource was, say water, it would have a history of being treated and regulated as if it was held “In Common” either above ground or below.

    I get the desire and arguments to leave the oil in the ground but when we Do use it; I do not understand the extremely common position of rabid, de facto, and literal privatisation of a commonly held resource…

    1. jefemt

      “Commons” are construed differently in different Nation-states.
      In Canada, the mineral Estate under the surface is considered the realm of the Crown. The royal family relinquished to the provinces.(did they insist on an off-record side letter agreement regarding “royalties” ?)

      In the US, the majority of lands are private. The States received some lands from the Federal government to fund public school systems.
      The remaining federal lands were typically the least desirable, from an ag perspective. they are administered by the Forest Service, BLM, US FWS, under the Dept of Interior or Agriculture.
      Private parties may nominate federal mineral lands for lease.
      The compensation the US gets for the use, development , and production of the leased lands is a Royalty, which used to be 1/8th of the strike price of the resource. Biden just raised the royalty rate, administratively, from 12.5% – which it has been since time immemorial- to 18.75%. Long overdue!
      For example, the State of North Dakota charges a 20 or even 25% royalty for it most promising oil-bearing shale laden tracts.

      I’m fairly confident that what a rational human may construe as a commons– in the US is hardly that– whether it is water, or oil and gas… it can be claimed, severed, hypothecated…and in the US, minerals are construed as the dominant estate over and superior to the surface.

      There generally are regulatory agencies at the state or federal level that are conservation oriented, to regulate, conserve and prudently use the resource. These boards are generally comprised of indusrty insiders and are fully captured, self dealing, and self serving. Clever Monkeys!

      We are indeed very exceptional in the US

    2. Susan the other

      Oil/gas should be nationalized. To privatize it is to allow it to be used competitively to make profits for the oil corporations – which prevents it from being strictly conserved and controlled. It’s one or the other. But not both because private corporations have to grow and profit to stay alive. And the rationing of oil is an illegal act of monopoly by any entity except the government. One or the other.

  2. Peter

    OK – lets drop complex comments. The answer is usually the simple one. President Biden regardless of what he says or promises actions ALWAYS speak louder than words – “You Lied” and instead of honoring your oath to protect the people of the USA you have betrayed them. Oil and Gas are KILLING millions worldwide annually and you have decided to open up public land (land owned by the people you have pledged to protect) you have given over their property to people whose focus is to KILL PEOPLE. Maybe you did not think – then you should not be President, you made a mistake – fire your advisors. Here is some FREE advice Mr. President and it fits PERFECTLY the problem it addresses – Tomorrow – NOT next week, month or year – TOMORROW 9 AM declare a National Climate Emergency (if you do not think this is an emergency – resign instead – you are insane. Upon declaring the national emergency (which you can do legally WITHOUT Congress input) STOP all leasing of public land to O&G companies. Send a letter from the President (you) to ALL Major banks in the US and around the world they must immediately STOP financing any and all O&G projects IF they want to deal with the federal reserve (which they all do ) and third – call an emergency mandatory meeting at the white house for all American O&G company CEO’s and CFO’s at which you will explain the crisis and clearly detail WHO is the number one problem and cause (all the CEO’s and CFO’s) then you will explain that they MUST immediate put in place a plan to wind down there companies in 3 years and stop ALL O&G activity + cease ALL multi-million dollar PR LYING campaigns IMMEDIATELY. If you feel uncomfortable doing this remember you are the President (you know the leader) this is NOT a time for MR. Nice Guy it is a time to do the damm RIGHT THING and DO YOUR JOB. If you cannot do these obvious things – resign immediately a write a letter to thye American people explaining to them that you are NOT a leader, you have no courage and you are unaware of relativity and sorry that you have contributed to the destruction of our planet when ONLY you had the chance to save you and your family but did not have the courage to do it. You welcome – please read over – this is also a brief concise description of your JOB and what the sacred oath you took.

    1. Synoia

      I agree. But, Biden is facing an election and the Ds want the Money (O0ps, really it is the uniparty that wants money)

      US Democracy, or US Mockery, by size of contributions. /s

      And with the war the US invoked in Europe the MIC is flush, so it is now the OIL and Gas’ turn.

      All is going to plan.

  3. NotTimothyGeithner

    The Biden administration clearly discussed the timing of the order, late on Good Friday. They don’t want anyone to know. Biden is going to try to paint something green this coming weekend. Embarrassment works.

  4. Solarjay

    I don’t think that’s it’s just going to be young people not voting dem.

    I for one am not voting dem. Not voting repub either.


    1. playon

      Other than local county and a few state races I will not cast another vote for a Democrat. Voted Bernie in 2016, Green party in 2020. I’ve voted Dem for 50 years but the wake up call for me was Obama letting Wall St off the hook. I’m only sorry I didn’t wake up sooner — I would have never voted for Bill Clinton.

  5. Susan the other

    I can’t help thinking that this reversal has something to do with the failed war in Ukraine. It is now obvious that Russia isn’t just going to be a pushover when it comes to defending its rich oil fields in the south. Nor allow themselves to be cut off from access to the Black Sea. When Russia finally went to war after years and years of provocation, they meant business. We must have assumed their patience would last forever. Russian rope-a-dope. So now we know that Russian oil and gas will be paid in roubles or other approved currencies. We can’t even sanction them. We know that, for the time being, the EU will have shortages of natgas and we will make a nice profit supplying them with LNG. But everyone understands the word ‘unsustainable’. It is possible that “Joe” has seen into the future and decided that the US can make money from the EU’s misfortune so he’s willing to offer new leases to privateers. The difference this will make in CO2 in the atmosphere might well be 6s – because the oil/gas from Russia would have created vast amounts of it and now perhaps less. So the key to controlling CO2 is creating an economy that does not need it. It would be Joe’s biggest nightmare to actually run too low on gas/oil to keep certain segments of the economy going. The military immediately comes to mind. And Big Ag. Etc. We need to talk to them. They need a new plan. Some organized, decentralized, low-energy stuff. And quickly.

    1. Telee

      Biden’s insistence on supporting the privatization of traditional Medicare so Wall Street can take 40% of Medicare funds to act as a middle man after promising to lower Medicare age by 5 years has not won me over.

  6. Joe Well

    >>his failure to do anything significant about student loans, will likely lead young people to abstain from voting come November.

    I am seriously at a loss as to how the Biden administration is better, on balance, than the Trump administration. The only thing that jumps out at me is that he got us out of Afghanistan, but even then it seems like he is still managing to kill a ton of Afghans through sanctions.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      Unless you care about Twitter trolling, he isn’t. As you point out, the Afghanistan withdraw is all he has and with the combo of continued sanctions for them and starting WWIII for everyone, it’s hard to say he hasn’t canceled that out by now.
      Even some of my most aggressive pro-Dem, vote blue no matter who people are starting to notice. I don’t think it’s going to be just young people abstaining from voting.

    2. megrim

      We can even thank Trump for the Afghanistan departure. I doubt Biden would have made the right decision if he hadn’t been backed into a corner by Trump’s withdrawal agreement.

    3. playon

      Dems have demonstrated over and over again that they care nothing about younger people’s prospects. How they can think it will not affect the future of their party beats me.

      1. Telee

        They just don’t care about people in general. The evidence is all around us. Money and power is what matters to them.

  7. Synoia

    It appears to me that the a major set of resources the US has, that are not out sourced are finance, mineral extraction and weapons..

    It follows the resumption of mineral extraction by this administration, including petroleum is to collect donations in return for opening up extraction licenses.

    The mineral extraction and defense companies are on the receiving side of massive amounts of federal largess.

    That provides a fast return in this election cycle from these companies to the D party.

  8. JP

    Has the natural human carrying capacity of the earth been exceeded? Probably some time ago owing to antibiotics, fertilizer and cheap energy. All are becoming depleted or ineffective. Back in the 60’s those of us who were prone to visions saw the coming crash of civilization. It never materialized but we now see it taking shape. Climate change is quickening the four horses. With the demise of social norms and society in general, facilitated by social media, a political solution is becoming less and less possible. Oil is a global market. High oil prices are not Biden’s fault any more then inflation is but he is taking a lot of heat for it anyway because distraction and shifting blame is more important in DC then facing reality.

    If there is no political solution, then finding fault with the current administration or campaigning for an enlightened congress will be unproductive. Maybe visions of the apocalypse are again premature but if I was 50 years younger I would be looking for a safe landing zone and acting locally to hedge my chances for survival. My neighbors are all right wing nuts. But when there is any kind of local threat, be it forest fires or high water, we all swing together. Build trust, form apolitical relationships. reconstruct the community as a bulwark against outside threats. Funny thing, I live in the town that was the site model of the last refuge of civilization in the sifi novel Lucifer’s Hammer.

  9. Anthony G Stegman

    When was the last time a Democrat lived up to his or her word??? The answer is Never!! Why is anyone surprised that Biden opened up more public land to oil and gas extraction? I’m not at all surprised. United States officials are not agreement capable.

  10. Scott1

    I’m with JP. Along comes crisis overload. I don’t call it war I call it the apocalyptic riot.
    Uruguay is the place I recommend to youth. They kicked the TPP salesmen out.
    Room temperature superconductor motors and transmission lines may buy us some get through the bottleneck time for some populations.

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