On public lands as fuel, gas rent as a call for reform

Helena, Mont. – Security groups in Montana are calling on the federal government to improve oil and gas leases on public lands.

When President Joe Biden came to power, he stopped renting, but a federal judge overturned the ban.

On August 31, the Land Administration Bureau presented 14 packages covering more than 62-hectares of lease in Montana and is seeking public opinion on the proposal.

Derf Johnson, a staff lawyer with the Montana Environment Information Center, said Binden’s administration was aware of concerns about the lease process during a vacation.

“American public lands have been leased through oil and gas-damaged systems,” Johnson said. “It robs taxpayers, does not protect our environment or climate, and there are administrative problems in the system as a whole.

In a letter to Montana and Dakotas, the state director of BLM, the groups proposed seven improvements to the lease process. They include limiting the number and scope of sales, requiring at least 18.75% royalty for all leases and limiting participation in reviews.

The Western Energy Alliance, the oil and gas industry group, initially argued for a while, and Beiden relinquished his presidency.

Aubrey Bertraham, a lawyer with Wild Montana Workers, says there is an urgent need to curb carbon emissions on public lands. “If our public lands are a country, it will be the fifth largest greenhouse gas producer in the world,” she said.

Bertrand noted that the Biden administration has significant climate goals, and fossil fuels play a key role in public lands.

I think Bertrand is right to say, “The current situation is not conducive to climate change and economic recovery.” We know we have to do things differently, and this is a really important opportunity for management to put their money where their mouth is.

Bertram added that 20 million acres of public land has already been leased in the West. Last week, the House Democrats voted to include amendments to oil and gas leases on public lands.

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