Forty-Four House Democrats Push BLM to Rescind Illegal Anti-Transparency Directive on Federal Oil and Gas Leasing, Postpone December Lease Sales

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter with 43 House Democratic colleagues to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Deputy Director Brian Steed today urging him to rescind a policy memorandum on oil and gas leasing that a federal judge has already partially enjoined. The lawmakers also ask Steed to delay lease sales planned for December that impermissibly limit public input based on the controversial memo’s language.

The full letter is available at http://bit.ly/2Pb4mWP.

The memo, formally titled Instruction Memorandum (IM) 2018-034, was issued in February of this year. It overturned prior oil and gas leasing reforms that ensured careful consideration of meaningful public input in energy development decisions on public lands.

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on Sept. 21 in Western Watersheds Project v. Zinke finding that the oil and gas leasing process outlined in IM 2018-034 – which greatly curtails public input on leasing decisions – cannot be used to approve new leases on greater sage-grouse habitat, which covers 67 million acres across the Western United States. The lawmakers write today that in light of the ruling and the unresolvable problems the memo has created, IM 2018-034 should be withdrawn entirely and the previous leasing system should be reinstated.

The lawmakers urge Steed to take three across-the-board steps, all of which the recent preliminary injunction already mandates on sage-grouse habitat:

  • Restore the previous policy that mandates a public participation period in the lease nomination process,  reversing IM 2018-034 language that makes it optional.
  • Reinstate a 30-day public review and comment period for environmental reviews preceding a leasing decision made by a BLM State Director, which was eliminated under IM 2018-034.
  • Reverse IM 2018-034’s decision to shorten the protest period for oil and gas lease sales from 30 days to 10 days.

“Since the oil and gas lease sales scheduled for December 2018 have already reached a point such that the planning for those sales has violated the terms of the September 21 ruling, those lease sales should be delayed to allow the public to fully participate,” the lawmakers write.

Alongside senior members of the Natural Resources Committee, signatories include Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), ranking member of the House Rules Committee; Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), ranking member of the House Budget Committee; Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee; Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Small Business Committee; and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.

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