BLM dismisses lease sale protests

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jul 18, 2008
by WLJ

BLM dismisses lease sale protests

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has dismissed protests filed on its April 2008 oil and gas lease sale by the Western Environmental Law Center and WildEarth Guardians. As a result of the decision, the 61 leases sold at the April 16, 2008, lease sale will be awarded to the bidders that secured the leases, effective Aug. 1, 2008.

The protests alleged that federal laws and regulations compel BLM to do a series of detailed analyses of the impacts to global warming and climate change from potential greenhouse gas emissions before offering leases for oil and gas development on federal lands.

BLM rejected the protests because greenhouse gas emissions are addressed in Environmental Assessments (EAs) prepared by its field offices and because the agency has taken, and will continue to explore, significant actions to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere from federal oil and gas wells. For example, BLM requires that operators minimize flaring and venting of natural gas during production operations; BLM estimates that greenhouse gas emissions from federal wells in New Mexico have been reduced by 50 percent or more since 1980.

In the EA process, BLM offices examine air quality and other impacts from potential oil and gas development, including greenhouse gas emissions. Based on New Mexico’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Reference Case Projection 1990-2020, it was determined that issuing these leases will have no significant impact to the total regional and global greenhouse gas emission levels.

"We understand that people are concerned about greenhouse gases and global climate change, as are the BLM and the Department of the Interior," said Linda Rundell, New Mexico state director the BLM. "But we don’t feel this protest will help reduce the levels of gases released into the atmosphere. The real issue is worldwide demand and use of fossil fuels."

In its protest response, BLM noted that consumption of oil and gas would likely continue at current levels or increase in the future with or without the leases being issued in its April sale and that consumption of these fuels provides the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions. BLM’s response further noted that if the BLM were to forego leasing or otherwise reduce oil and gas development on federal lands, public demand would not decrease in the U.S. or worldwide. The fuels not produced from federal leases would be replaced by other sources—sources that could include a combination of imports and other domestic production. The net effect, therefore, would not impact overall emission levels. In fact, levels of greenhouse gases could increase because oil and gas production in other parts of the world are not subject to the strict environmental regulations that apply to federal leases in this country. — WLJ