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158,000 Acres--250 Square Miles on the Auction Block in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming
Denver -- WildEarth Guardians slammed President Trump and his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, today for their plans to auction off more than 158,000 acres of western public lands for fracking in the month of September.
“Trump and Zinke have absolutely no respect for our public lands and see them only as an obstacle to oil and gas development,” said Becca Fischer, Climate Guardian with WildEarth Guardians. “With these latest fracking plans, it’s clear that we are losing our public lands to the fossil fuel industry.”
Starting today, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management is plowing ahead to auction off public lands in virtually every western state, including auctions on September 7 in Colorado and New Mexico, auctions in North Dakota, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah on September 12, and an auction in Wyoming on September 21. The auctions will take place online away from public view.
These sales threaten to hand over the rights for oil and gas companies to access, exploit, and profit off of public lands. Often, these lands are sold for as low as $2.00 an acre. Worse, these sales threaten to open the door for more carbon pollution and more damage to our clean air and water.
These sales add to the growing total of public lands being auctioned off to the oil and gas industry. All told in 2017, over a million acres have been sold or are slated for sale.
These sales also come at a time when Trump and Zinke are rolling back environmental safeguards and cutting the public out of public lands management. Just before the Labor Day weekend, the Interior Department quietly issued an order directing its agencies to cut corners on environmental reviews and eliminate public comments periods.
Additionally, just last month, the New Mexico State Office of the Bureau of Land Management quietly eliminated public comment periods for all its 2018 oil and gas sales. The move was in response to Zinke’s secretarial order 3354, which called on the BLM to “streamline” oil and gas permitting.
“These are our public lands, yet Zinke has the gall to cut out the American public on behalf of the oil and gas industry,” said Fischer. “This isn’t just an attack on our environment, it’s an attack on our democracy.”
WildEarth Guardians is currently in federal court seeking to halt further sales of public lands for fracking. A ruling is expected in 2018.
27.7 million acres of U.S. public lands in the West are already leased to the oil and gas industry, an area 22 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park. More than 1.1 million acres of public lands in the American West have been leased or are proposed to be leased to the oil and gas industry in 2017 alone.
The industry is not using the leases they already have. Out of the 27.7 million acres under lease, only 46%, or 12.7 million acres, are actually producing.
Nearly one quarter of all U.S. climate pollution already comes from burning fossil fuels extracted from public lands and waters. The Interior Department has yet to fully consider the cumulative climate consequences of fossil fuel extraction and fracking on public land.