WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

New Report: Rocky Mountains, Climate Threatened by U.S. Interior Department Fracking Lease Sales

WildEarth Guardians Calls for Leasing Moratorium as 180,000 Acres of Public Lands to be Auctioned off in May

Denver – A report released today by WildEarth Guardians reveals U.S. Interior Department plans to auction off nearly 180,000 acres of oil and gas leases in the Rocky Mountains this month threatens to set back efforts to combat climate change, prompting a call for a moratorium on new leasing.

“Auctioning off our public lands to the oil and gas industry is just another kind of climate denial,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “This Rocky Mountain fracking free-for-all will only unleash more carbon, making it critical that the Interior Department stop opening the door for more fossil fuel development and start making the protection of our public lands a priority.”

The report found that Interior Department proposals to auction off 183 oil and gas lease parcels in the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming stand to unleash nearly as much carbon pollution as a coal-fired power plant.

Iconic public lands, including Colorado’s Pawnee National Grassland, stand to be turned into industrial landscapes. The report comes as the first oil and gas lease auction of the month is slated to occur tomorrow in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Using methods that were also utilized by the Interior Department, it was estimated that development of the lease parcels would unlock the equivalent of more than 3.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The total costs of this carbon pollution could be more than $353 million every year.

This estimate only includes emissions associated with construction and production of oil and gas wells. Taking into account emissions from oil and gas processing and combustion, the total climate impacts would be even greater.

In spite of this, the Interior Department has denied any responsibility for tackling the climate impacts of oil and gas development on public lands. In Utah, agency officials asserted that, “there is a substantial amount of professional disagreement and uncertainty as to what impacts greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have on climate[.]”

This denial comes even as President Obama has ordered all federal agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to safeguard the climate.

“By auctioning off more fossil fuels from our public lands, the Interior Department is completely undermining the Obama Administration’s efforts to combat climate change,” said Nichols. “If Secretary Jewell doesn’t have the will to act, President Obama needs to step in and shut this dirty energy leasing down.”

The latest Rocky Mountain leasing plans come amid signs that fossil fuels from public lands are exacting a substantial toll on the climate. A report released in March by The Wilderness Society found that oil and gas development on public lands managed by the Interior Department is already responsible for nearly 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

In total, 23% of all U.S. climate emissions come from burning coal, oil, and gas from our public lands, like National Forests and Grasslands and National Wildlife Refuges.

Tomorrow’s lease auction in Wyoming will be followed up by a May 6th auction in Montana, a May 14th sale in Colorado, a May 19th sale in Utah, and a May 26th sale in Idaho.


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