BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Biden administration said Friday that industry regulators for the first time will begin analyzing greenhouse gas emissions from federal oil and gas leases on a national scale, as they prepare to hold lease sales in numerous Western sates next year.
The announcement from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management came as officials released a report saying fossil fuel extraction from federal lands produced more than 1 billion tons (918 million metric tons) of greenhouse gases last year. That’s about one-fifth of all energy related emissions.
President Joe Biden campaigned on promises to end new drilling on public lands to help combat climate change. But his attempt to suspend new leases while oil and gas sales underwent a sweeping review, was blocked by a federal judge in Louisiana.
Including greenhouse gas emissions in lease sale reviews will allow the administration to highlight what scientists say are the high social costs of greenhouse gas emissions — from rising sea levels and wildfires, to public health problems.
Environmental assessments that include a greenhouse gas analysis will be released in coming days for lease sales planned early next year in Colorado, Montana, the Dakotas, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Mississippi and Alabama, bureau officials said.
Newly sworn in land bureau director Tracy-Stone Manning said the agency wants to develop public lands responsibly and make sure climate impacts are considered.
“We will continue to exercise the authority and discretion provided under law to conduct leasing in a manner that fulfills the Interior Department’s legal responsibilities,” she said in a statement.
Federal agencies previously conducted reviews of potential greenhouse gas impacts from individual lease sales following court orders. Officials in many cases concluded the emissions were miniscule on a global scale.
But environmentalists have long maintained those reviews were too narrow, and ignored the cumulative impact of huge tracts of public lands in multiple states and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico being leased for oil, gas and coal extraction.
Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter: @MatthewBrownAP