National emissions to be a factor in drilling lease sales

National emissions to be a factor in drilling lease sales

The federal government will consider contributions to national greenhouse gas emissions as it prepares to sell oil and gas drilling leases — and could ultimately put off selling certain parcels as a result. 

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said that it will consider the contribution towards national greenhouse gas emissions for the first time as part of forthcoming environmental assessments for proposed sales that would be held in early 2022. 

It said that based on these assessments, which typically also consider impacts on air and water quality, wildlife, and nearby communities, it may defer certain parcels. 

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“The BLM is committed to responsible development on public lands, including ensuring that our environmental reviews consider the climate impacts of energy development on lands and communities,” agency director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a statement. 

She added that the department will continue to carry out leasing that “fulfills the Interior Department’s legal responsibilities.” 

The department said on Friday that it will also consider what’s known as the “social cost” of greenhouse gases — a calculation of how much emissions cost society that can be used in climate-related decision-making. 

The announcement comes as the Biden administration is reassessing how it conducts oil and gas leasing. 

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Biden pledged to both ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, and adjust fees that companies pay to drill on federal property to account for climate change. 

But it’s unclear whether the administration will ultimately implement these changes.

As part of the review, the Biden administration originally sought to pause new lease sales. It has since resumed that process after a court ordered it to carry on with the sales. 

That has drawn resistance from progressives, who argue that the agency should exercise its discretion to limit how much land it leases out for drilling.