Fact Check: Presidents Can’t Ban Oil, Natural Gas Leases on Public Lands

June 26, 2019
  • New analysis shows 12 of 20 presidential candidates support closing public lands to responsible energy development
  • White House bans on public lands would overstep laws passed by Congress
  • Leasing bans ignore natural gas’s role in leading America’s greenhouse gas reductions

DENVER – Proposals to ban oil and natural gas leases on public lands among 2020 Democratic candidates are beyond the authority of a president and ignore the fact that natural gas is the number one reason the United States has reduced greenhouse gas emissions more than any other country. Analysis conducted by Western Energy Alliance, a Denver-based oil and natural gas association, shows that 12 of the 20 candidates participating in the first Democratic debate have proposed or support banning leasing on multiple-use public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Beto O’Rourke.

The following are facts about oil and natural gas production and leasing on BLM’s public lands:

  • The Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act have been the law of the land for many decades and do not grant presidents authority to impose blanket bans on energy production. When the Obama Administration tried a moratorium on offshore development, it was overturned in court.
  • While national parks, wilderness, roadless, and other conservation areas are closed to any new development, there are millions of acres of working landscapes on western public lands where multiple uses such as ranching, mining, timber, and energy development take place under strict environmental standards. These working lands support rural communities, jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity.
  • Oil and natural gas development on public lands only occurs after a careful planning process that involves multiple rounds of environmental analysis with ample opportunity for public comment.
  • Switching to natural gas for power generation is the number one reason the United States has reduced greenhouse gas emissions more than any other country. Natural gas has displaced more greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector than wind and solar combined.

Rounding out the field of presidential contenders who support banning oil and gas leases are Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, Tim Ryan, Jay Inslee, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Marianne Williamson.

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