The Biden administration has put forth a plan to limit oil and gas development on approximately 1.6 million acres of public lands in western Colorado. This move comes as a response to legal challenges raised by environmental organizations, who argued that the government’s resource management plans did not sufficiently address the issues of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.
To address these concerns, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released a draft supplemental environmental impact statement, which outlines the resource management plans for the Grand Junction Field Office and Colorado River Valley field offices. As per the proposal, the two offices would only be allowed to lease around 239,000 and 143,000 acres, respectively, for the purpose of fossil fuel production. This represents a significant reduction of 80%.
The BLM’s decision is the result of years of legal battles with environmental groups over the resource management plans that were finalized during the Obama administration. Following a court order, the BLM was required to reassess its strategy for oil and gas leasing in the Colorado River Valley. As a result, the Grand Junction plan was voluntarily recalled by the BLM after President Biden’s inauguration.
While environmental groups have praised this move, the Western Energy Alliance, a trade organization representing the fossil fuel industry, along with several Republican lawmakers, have criticized it, viewing it as an assault on domestic energy production. Their argument is that the areas designated as having low potential for oil could have provided economic growth and job opportunities, but are now off-limits.
The BLM has justified its proposal by highlighting that much of the affected land is not rich in oil and can be utilized for other purposes. However, critics argue that this decision will drive up energy prices and increase dependence on foreign sources of energy.