Who Needs Keep-It-in-the-Ground? BLM’s Already Doing So

by Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs on August 11, 2016 - 9:41am

Western Energy Alliance Files Lawsuit Challenging BLM’s Failure to Hold Lease Sales

Bill McKibbenEver since President Obama handed a major victory to the environmental lobby by stopping the Keystone XL pipeline, Big Green needed a new fight. The answer was the Keep-It-in-the-Ground movement, aimed at not developing any oil or natural gas on federal lands.

But is this movement really necessary? Without doing anything, activists could achieve the same goal by simply leaving the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to its own devices.

Since policy changes introduced in 2010, leasing has fallen precipitously in every major category. Anemic lease sales in western states are down to a handful of parcels of a few thousand acres, despite millions of acres of lease nominations from industry that remain in limbo. BLM’s failure to assign staff and resources to process lease nominations means that several lease sales have been cancelled outright, despite the fact that oil and natural gas returns more to the U.S. treasury than any other government program outside the IRS.

Who needs loud protests when you can simply let bureaucratic inertia run its course?

BLM is required by the Mineral Leasing Act to hold quarterly lease sales in each state where lands are designated as appropriate for oil and natural gas leasing and interest is expressed from industry. However, BLM has implemented an artificial rotational leasing schedule that means some states, even those where industry interest remains high, do not have four sales every year. For example, New Mexico had only two sales in 2015, and only one will be held in 2016. Failure to hold quarterly sales in each state is a clear violation of the Mineral Leasing Act.

The Keep-It-in-the-Ground movement is yelling and screaming to coerce BLM into violating the law so that this bureaucratic chokehold becomes a full policy stop. They’ve seen how the Obama Administration is willing to use its pen and phone to rule by fiat and impose policy that flouts Congressional mandate. The time is now for industry to stand up and demand that BLM and the Interior Department follow existing law passed by the representatives of the People.

For that reason, Western Energy Alliance today filed a lawsuit challenging the failure to hold quarterly lease sales to try to compel BLM to do what’s already required by law.

BLM Quarterly Leasing Chart