Environmentalists are crying foul over a recent announcement from the US Department of Interior regarding issuing sale notices for oil and gas leases.
The announcement is seen as President Joe Biden walking back from a key promise made during his campaign to end the issuance of exploratory leases on public and tribal lands.
In a scathing statement calling out the President, Friends of the Earth senior fossil fuels program manager Nicole Ghio accused the US government of putting the interests of oil executives first rather than protecting the environment for future generations.
New oil exploration and drilling initiatives are expected to take a toll on affected communities, compromising air quality and the supply of clean and potable water. These will also worsen the impact that climate change has already had on many parts of the country.
At present, processes involved in the extraction of fossil fuels on public lands in the United States contribute around 25% of the country’s total carbon emissions. To push for new exploratory leases at this point violates the call of environmental scientists to cut all emissions by half by the end of the current decade.
This highly untimely move also makes the Biden Administration look like it is pandering to the Big Oil agenda at the expense of the health of both the Earth and the American people.
Alaskan eco-advocate Siqiniq Maupin, executive director of Sovereign Ińupiat for a Living Arctic, declared that the environment’s future depends heavily on the United States. Therefore, the commodification of public land and open water sources needs to end.
Thus recent announcement from Interior follows a 2021 decision wherein a Louisiana judge ruled Biden’s executive order halting new oil and gas exploration initiatives was illegal under current federal land management laws.
But the DOI is also formulating a new set of rules to be implemented for all future sales. These rules are meant to heighten scrutiny of environmental and mitigation requirements and raise the low royalty rates the agency has charged for so long.
Last November, the DOI released findings that the current federal leasing program for fossil fuels was shortchanging American taxpayers and ignored affected communities’ concerns. Environmentalists have criticized the report for failing to point out how ongoing lease agreements have contributed to climate change.