Wednesday, April 22, 2009

BLM to Hold "Earth Day" Auction of Oil & Gas Leases on Public Land. Protests Planned.

For Immediate Release, April 21, 2009

Contact: Oscar Simpson, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, (505) 917-2134
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 437-7663
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Western Environmental Law Center, (575) 751-0351 x 137
Jay Lininger, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 853-9929

Protest Filed Against Oil and Gas Leasing on New Mexico Public Lands

TAOS, N.M.— Allied conservationists and sportsmen today filed an administrative protest of a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease sale for New Mexico. The Bureau will offer 49 lease parcels, totaling 41,635 acres, on April 22, 2009 – Earth Day. The protest challenges the government’s failure to address global warming in its oil and gas leases.

“Global warming hurts wildlife, our rivers and streams, and our heritage. But it’s still business as usual: Lease first, think later,” said Oscar Simpson with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “BLM needs to get a plan in place to deal with the global warming issues directly tied to federal oil and natural gas leasing in New Mexico.”

Several other conservation and sportsmen groups, including Back Country Horsemen of New Mexico, Albuquerque Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and the Northern New Mexico Chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation expressed support for the challenge.

“The support we’re getting from these groups reflects a groundswell of concern that the combined impacts of global warming and oil and gas development aren’t doing wildlife any favors,” Simpson said.

On the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency’s April 17, 2009 endangerment finding that greenhouse gas emissions “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations,” the need for the federal government to address global warming is urgent. In New Mexico, oil and gas production contributes roughly 25 percent — and possibly more — of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, second only to the electricity sector.

“Methane emissions from gas production are one of the biggest sources. Natural gas may burn cleaner than coal, but leaks and dirty drilling practices in the production phase result in significant methane emissions to the atmosphere,” said Jeremy Nichols, director of climate and energy at WildEarth Guardians. “And methane’s global warming impact, molecule to molecule, is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”

There are cost-efficient technologies to keep methane out of the atmosphere and in pipelines for use in homes, schools, and businesses. These technologies have already proven effective. In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that its Natural Gas STAR program avoided annual greenhouse gas emissions equal to the amount emitted by 6.8 million passenger vehicles or 5 million homes per year, and added revenue of nearly $648 million in natural gas sales. But the program relies on industry self-regulation and has been hampered by the Bureau of Land Management’s failure to require these measures as a condition of owning a federal oil and gas lease.

“Fossil fuel combustion is producing a critical mass of greenhouse gases that has already shifted the planet’s climate system into dangerous territory,” said Jay Lininger, ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s a cruel irony that the Bureau of Land Management would lease more climate-threatening oil and gas on Earth Day.”

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