Interior Department posts new lease sales a week after resumption announcement

Interior Department posts new lease sales a week after resumption announcement
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The Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday posted new leases for oil and gas drilling on 16,500 acres in five states, one week after the Interior Department announced that leasing in the areas would resume.

The proposed lease sales posted Tuesday include 9,200 acres in Montana, 80 acres in Alabama, 14 acres in Oklahoma and 520 acres in New Mexico. It also features a total of 6,735 acres in Mississippi, including 5,442 acres in the state’s DeSoto National Forest and another 1,293 acres in its Homochitto National Forest.

Later Tuesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management also announced it will proceed with an oil lease sale for a parcel off the Gulf of Mexico.

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The Center for Biological Diversity, which has called on the Biden administration to take more aggressive action on environmental issues, blasted the move in a statement Tuesday.

“Committing more public land to filthy fossil fuel extraction is disastrous policy that will only worsen the climate and extinction crises,” said Taylor McKinnon, a senior public lands campaigner with the organization. “We’re out of time. The Biden administration must move fast to bring an orderly end to the federal fossil fuel program.”  

The Biden administration announced last Tuesday that lease sales would resume while it appeals a court order halting the White House’s freeze on new sales.

In the meantime, the Interior Department has said it will review what it considers flaws of the current federal oil and gas leasing program, with an eye toward altering it if necessary in keeping with the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Interior Secretary Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden administration breaks down climate finance roadmap Protesters arrested after sit-in at Interior Department Obama to attend Glasgow climate summit MORE testified in July that the department was “complying with the court order right now.”

“In complying with the district court’s injunction, the Interior Department will continue to exercise the authority and discretion provided under law to conduct leasing in a manner that fulfills Interior’s legal responsibilities, including to take into account the programs’ documented deficiencies,” the department said in a statement last week.

Updated at 5:13 p.m.