New Mexico Wild is celebrating an executive order signed by President Joe Biden today that places a moratorium on federal oil and gas lease sales as the new administration begins work to reverse the anti-environmental policies of the former president. Today’s executive order pauses new oil and gas leasing claims on approximately 700 million acres of federal public land while the Biden administration reviews the environmental impacts of new leases and determines what changes need to be made to the federal minerals leasing program.
“It is with a profound sense of relief and hope for the future of planet earth and all its inhabitants that we welcome and celebrate President Biden’s actions overturning the disastrous and cynical attacks on the environment and our shared public lands that occurred over the last four years,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director at New Mexico Wild. “To have any chance of mitigating the challenges of climate change, mass species extinction, and issues of environmental justice, equity, and access, it will take all of us working together. New Mexicans know that our natural heritage and our cultural heritage are inseparable and that it is the responsibility of everyone to do what we can on behalf of future generations. New Mexicans are ready and eager to be part of the solution.”
In just four years, the previous administration rolled back over 125 public health, climate and environmental safeguards. President Biden’s moratorium on oil and gas leasing buys his administration time to mitigate some of the damage these regulatory rollbacks have caused to federal public lands and New Mexico’s wilderness, wildlife and water. The moratorium is a welcome check on the extraction of fossil fuels from our federal public lands, which accounts for approximately 25% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
“After the fire sale of public lands during the last four years, taking a pause on new leasing is a necessary and common-sense step that will allow for a thorough review of the broken federal minerals program that has run roughshod over environmental concerns and taxpayers,” said Allison. “With Bureau of Land Management districts like Farmington already having over 90% of lands already leased for oil and gas development, for example, it will take industry years to develop the leases they already hold. Industry assertions that this moratorium will kill jobs and put them out of business is unhelpful hyperbole.”
Today’s executive order comes on the heels of a shorter, 60-day pause on oil and gas lease sales announced last week to allow the Biden administration to review existing claims and fill staffing vacancies at the Bureau of Land Management and other relevant agencies. President Biden’s moratorium also asserts his administration’s support for the 30×30 initiative, committing the federal government to protecting 30 percent of the nation’s public lands and oceans by the year 2030. Recently retired New Mexico Senator Tom Udall had been one of the nation’s leading proponents of 30×30 initiative while in office.
The federal moratorium on new oil and gas permitting comes as New Mexico legislators weigh Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s budget requests for state agencies like the Environment Department, the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, and the Oil and Conservation Division, which are still recovering from dramatic budget cuts under the administration of former Governor Susana Martinez, as outlined in a report released by New Mexico Wild this month.