Monday, July 14, 2008
BLM Dismisses Protests To Oil Lease
By Susan Montoya Bryan
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has dismissed protests of a recent oil and gas lease sale by environmentalists who had concerns about the sale's impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
The Western Environmental Law Center and WildEarth Guardians had filed protests to the April sale of dozens of parcels in New Mexico, claiming the agency failed to consider greenhouse gas emissions and climate change when determining whether to offer the parcels.
The groups had asked that the BLM prepare an environmental impact statement to determine the leases' impacts.
The BLM said it rejected the protests because the agency already addresses greenhouse gas emissions in environmental assessments prepared by its field offices and that the agency works with the industry to reduce emissions for example, by limiting flaring and venting of natural gas during drilling and production.
"We understand that people are concerned about greenhouse gases and global climate change, as are the BLM and the Department of the Interior," New Mexico BLM director Linda Rundell said Friday. "But we don't feel this protest will help reduce the levels of gases released into the atmosphere. The real issue is worldwide demand and use of fossil fuels."
Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change have become the environmentalists' arguments of choice when challenging recent quarterly oil and gas lease sales by the BLM in New Mexico and other Western states.
The environmental groups argue that the BLM needs to consider that oil and gas production resulting from individual lease sales adds up and can have a regional impact.
The BLM said it examines air quality and other impacts from potential development and that it has determined that issuing the leases offered in April would have no significant impact on regional and global greenhouse gas emission levels.
The agency, in its response to the environmental groups, said the consumption of oil and gas would likely continue at current levels with or without the April leases and that consumption is the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Even if the BLM stopped leasing, the agency said public demand for oil and natural gas would continue and fuels produced on federal lands would be replaced by other sources.
The BLM said the leases sold at the April 16 sale will be awarded to the winning bidders.
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