Oil and Gas Leasing Pause Charts New Path to Protect Wildlife, Clean Water, and Outdoor Recreation

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The Biden administration’s pause on federal oil and gas leasing on our public lands gives the administration a chance to assess the leasing program and chart a new path that will better protect wildlife, clean water, and our access for outdoor recreation, leaving our public lands better off for generations to come.

“Our public lands are critical for wildlife habitat, for delivering clean air and clean water, and for our growing outdoor economy. With wildlife populations in sharp decline, it is well past time to plan for a sustainable future,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “The leasing pause will allow the Department of Interior to both review and fix the lopsided oil and gas leasing system to give us a chance to leave our public lands better off than we found them.”

As a part of the pause, the National Wildlife Federation calls on the administration to assess how communities, Tribes and state budgets can make a just transition to a clean energy future. For the near term, President Biden should propose to Congress direct funding to affected states and Tribes, as well as investments that would put people to work on restoration of our public lands.

 For the longer term, the pause gives the administration the ability to take a thorough look at a leasing system that does not adequately serve the public or the lands we all own in common. Here are just a few examples:

  • Oil and gas companies do not have to put down enough money to clean up their drilling sites, thanks to outdated bonding rates. If companies go bankrupt and abandon their wells, taxpayers are on the hook to clean up contaminated drinking water, polluted air and impaired wildlife habitat.
  • 75% of all public lands available in the West have low or no potential for even finding oil or gas. The government should not waste taxpayer dollars leasing land that has little to no potential for oil and gas development.•
  • 50% of the lands that have been leased were leased non-competitively, for as little as $1.50 an acre. Taxpayers are simply not getting their fair share.

The leasing pause will not stop existing drilling rights, and will not affect the 26 million acres of public land that are already under lease, half of which haven’t been developed. Even industry officials admit that they have a deep inventory of approved drilling permits that will allow them to operate for years to come. You can read our fact sheet here.

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