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BLM is planning onshore oil and gas lease auctions to comply with the the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA).
Why it Matters
Oil and gas extraction presents risks to nearby communities and conservation areas. Drilling on federal lands is regulated by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which controls onshore energy extraction by awarding leases to bidders and regulating where and how extraction occurs.
The Trump administration prioritized opening up public lands to boost domestic oil and gas production as part of its effort to promote “energy independence and economic growth.” In Executive Order (EO) 13783, President Trump directed federal agencies to streamline the oil and gas leasing process and to review and rescind regulations related to energy development, among other directives. The administration’s efforts sought to expand energy development on federal lands and in formerly protected wilderness areas and national monuments.
When President Biden entered office, the Department of the Interior (DOI) suspended all onshore oil and gas leasing for a 60-day period beginning on Jan. 20, 2021. President Biden’s EO 13990 revoked Trump’s EO 13783 and instructed agencies to review actions taken during the Trump administration. On Jan. 27, 2021 President Biden signed EO 14008 that revoked EO 13795 and paused all offshore and onshore oil and gas leasing pending a comprehensive review of the leasing and permitting program. Many groups challenged the pause and implementation of the pause was intermittent due to several conflicting court orders. In Nov. 2021, DOI issued a report reviewing the leasing program and recommending reforms. Litigation on the pause continued. In Apr. 2022, the DOI announced that the BLM would issue notices for lease sales at increased royalty rates.
On Aug. 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law. The IRA increases the fees for oil and gas leases, but ties new onshore lease auctions to new renewables auctions. Learn more about these requirements in our new paper by Sarah Hart (JD 24).
On Nov. 21, 2022 BLM issued guidance explaining how it would implement the IRA’s changes to the onshore oil and gas leasing program. In July 2023, BLM proposed revisions to leasing royalty rates, rentals, minimum bids, and bonding requirements. To comply with the IRA and older requirements under the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA), BLM is continuing to plan upcoming lease auctions.
Timeline of Events
OBAMA ADMINISTRATIONRead More
May 17, 2010 BLM issues Instruction Memorandum No. 2010-117, which introduces the concept of a master lease plan (MLP) aimed at coordinating environmental, recreational, historical, and other interests when conducting oil and gas leasing on federal and Indian lands.
Jan. 28 2013 BLM issues Instruction Memorandum No. 2013-101 which further incorporates MLPs into BLM’s lease planning process.
Jan. 25, 2015 President Obama calls on Congress to designate the Coastal Plain of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as wilderness, protecting an additional 12 million acres of land. For more detail on leasing in ANWR, visit our page here.
Nov. 18, 2016 BLM publishes a final rule requiring oil and gas producers on federal and Indian lands to reduce the venting and flaring of gas produced as a byproduct of oil and gas production. For more detail on the Trump Administration’s revisions of this rule, visit our page here.
Trump ADMINISTRATIONRead More
March 28, 2017 President Trump issues Executive Order 13783 which directs executive agencies to review and revise regulations that burden domestic energy production.
March 29, 2017 Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issues Secretarial Order 3349 which directs the Department of Interior to review and revise regulations that burden domestic energy production in line with Executive Order 13783.
July 6, 2017 Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issues Secretarial Order 3354 which directs the Bureau of Land Management to more regularly implement oil and gas lease sales and to make its permitting process more efficient.
Dec. 22, 2017 Congress passes Public Law No: 115-97 (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) which also includes provisions that directs the Department of Interior to open ANWR’s Coastal Plain to oil and gas production and administer a leasing program. For more detail on the expansion of energy production in ANWR’s Coastal Plain, visit our page on this topic here. We do not track these developments on this page.
Oct. 24, 2017 The Department of Interior issues its final report pursuant to Executive Order 13783 documenting regulations that may burden domestic energy production and steps the DOI has taken or plans to take to reduce the regulatory burden.
- The report documents immediate steps that Interior has taken to promote energy production, including seven Secretarial orders.
- Interior also documents regulations that BLM, BOEM, and other organizations within Interior have determined are redundant or unnecessarily restrict growth, such as longer land use planning timelines.
- For more information on Executive Order 13783, visit our page here.
Dec. 4, 2017 President Trump shrinks the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments to promote oil and gas development. The decision to reduce the monuments invites immediate lawsuits and litigation is ongoing. For more information about the administration’s efforts to change national monuments, visit our page on the topic here.
Jan. 31, 2018 BLM issues Instruction Memorandum No. 2018-034 which eliminates the use of Obama-era master leasing plans (MLPs) in favor of prior resource management plans (RMPs).
- MLPs were intended to reduce conflict on public lands where competing interests often want to utilize resources on the same parcel. RMPs are developed at the field office or state level and focus primarily on oil and gas development.
- The Instruction Memorandum also reduces the time available to oppose proposed lease sales and allows for the use of Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) in lieu of an environmental impact assessment.
Feb. 7, 2018 BLM cancels its application to withdraw over 1.3 million acres of land within the California Desert National Conservation Lands from mining claims.
March 20, 2018 BLM auctions off over 51,000 acres of land for oil and gas production, including areas that were formally part of the Bears Ears National Monument.
Sep. 13, 2018 The Forest Service issues an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that aims to streamline oil and gas leasing of national forests and grasslands to reduce the regulatory burden on industry and to promote oil and gas production. For more information on the Forest Service rule, visit our page here.
Sep. 21, 2018 The US District Court for the District of Idaho issues an injunction preventing the Department of Interior from carrying out oil and gas lease sales under the Instruction Memorandum No. 2018-034 on federal lands identified in 2015 as “Greater Sage-Grouse Habitat Management Areas.” For more information on the administration’s efforts to revise the sage grouse conservation plans visit our page here.
Oct. 2018 BLM removes more than a million acres of land from auction in response to the US District Court for the District of Idaho’s preliminary injunction.
Jan. 2019 BLM recalls workers during the federal shutdown to prepare for upcoming oil and gas lease sales. Workers were reported to have scheduled meetings relating to ANWR during the shutdown, prompting House Natural Resources Committee Chairperson Raúl Grijalva to demand information on the on DOI’s resource allocation.
Feb. 6, 2019 Friends of Cedar Mesa, a Utah-based conservation organization, files suit in the United States District Court for the District of Utah to vacate BLM’s March 2018 lease sale of over 50,000 acres in San Juan County, Utah. The suit alleges that BLM violated the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act, among other statutes, when it went ahead with the lease sale in San Juan County. The lease region is close to Bears Ears and Canyons of the Ancients national monuments. Friends of Cedar Mesa v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Case No. 19-00013 (D. Utah).
Feb. 12, 2019 The Senate passes the Natural Resources Management Act (NMRA), which expands federal wilderness and conservation areas and withdraws certain conservation areas from mining.
- The NMRA permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which provides funds for federal and state conservation efforts. The LWCF is primarily funded from royalties on lease sales of federal offshore lands for oil and gas production.
Sep. 11, 2019 BLM leases 32,000 acres of land for oil and gas development near Hovenweep National Monument in Utah. The land is less than 20 miles from the monument, which includes a series of Diné tribal village ruins. Native American groups and other critics fear that oil and gas development will damage the historic sites.
Oct. 8, 2019 Environmental groups sue BLM arguing a RMP for lands in Colorado did not adequately consider indirect, cumulative or downstream climate change impacts of the leases in its environmental review. Center for Biological Diversity v. BLM, No. 1:19-cv-02869 (D. Co.).
Oct. 30, 2019 The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club sue BLM over its approval of an RMP amendment and EIS allowing oil and gas leasing on 725,000 acres of federal land and mineral estate in California. The groups contend that BLM did not fulfill its responsibilities under NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act. Center for Biological Diversity v. BLM, Case No. 19-07155 (N.D. Cal.).
Dec. 12, 2019 BLM’s field office in Bakersfield, CA publishes a Record of Decision on a required supplemental environmental impact statement that says fracking would have a “negligible” impact on health and the environment in the area. This decision upholds BLM’s 2014 Resource Management Plan for Bakersfield, which was delayed when a judge determined that the agency needed to give more attention to environmental issues related to fracking.
Jan. 9, 2020 Conservation groups WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility sue BLM over the agency’s leasing of almost 2 million acres of public land in CO, MT, NM, UT, and WY. The organizations argue that BLM violated NEPA by not adequately considering the impact of oil and gas leasing on climate change. — WildEarth Guardians v. BLM, No. 1:20-cv-00056 (D.D.C.).
March 2, 2020 Magistrate Judge Paul Kohler dismisses plaintiff’s suit asking the court to vacate BLM’s lease sale in San Juan County, Utah. Friends of Cedar Mesa v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Case No. 19-00013 (D. Utah).
May 1, 2020 Montana District Court Chief Judge Brian Morris vacates 287 oil and gas leases on federal land in Montana finding BLM failed to conduct proper environmental analyses of the leases, as required by NEPA. In particular, BLM erred when it failed to calculate the combined climatic effect of the leases, instead comparing each lease’s individual impact with state emissions totals. WildEarth Guardians v. BLM, No. 18-cv-00073 (D. Mont.)
June 9, 2020 BLM releases draft environmental assessment for public comment on 77 parcels expected to be auctioned in a September lease sale. The public comment period is open through
July 9, 2020. The lease sale would be near Canyonlands, Arches and Capitol Reef national parks and Bears Ears National Monument. BLM did not include some parcels that had been nominated by industry.
Aug. 19, 2020 Environmental groups file a lawsuit challenging BLM’s plan to expand oil and gas leasing in Colorado on several grounds, including failure to consider impacts to the climate and natural resources and failure to take steps to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of the lands at issue. Citizens for a Healthy Community v. BLM, No. 1:20-cv-02484 (D. Colo.).
Sept. 29, 2020 BLM releases the results of its September oil and gas lease sale. The sale includes 27,387 acres of public lands in Utah.
Oct. 16, 2020 The United States District Court for the District of Montana invalidates three Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land-use revisions in Montana because former Acting Director William Pendley was not authorized to issue the revision. The decision impacts the Lewiston, Miles City, and Missoula Resource Management Plan amendments. Bullock v. Bureau of Land Management, No. 4:20-cv-00062.
Oct. 23, 2020 The D.C. District Court grants EPA’s request to redo NEPA analysis of leasing decisions for oil and gas leases in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. WildEarth Guardians v. Bernhardt, No. 1:20-cv-00056 (D.D.C.).
Oct. 27, 2020 Environmental groups amend complaint challenging a BLM resource management plan in Colorado because former Acting Director William Pendley was not authorized to approve the plan. Citizens for a Healthy Community v. BLM, No. 1:20-cv-02484 (D. Colo.).
Nov. 13, 2020 BLM proposes a lease sale of approximately 474, 531 acres in Wyoming to be held in March 2021. The public comment period runs through Dec. 13, 2020.
Nov. 13, 2020 The federal district court in D.C. rejects BLM’s environmental review for oil and gas leases in Wyoming for failure to sufficiently consider the environmental impacts of the leasing decisions. WildEarth Guardians v. Jewell, No. 1:16-cv-01724-RC (D.D.C.)
Dec. 10, 2020 The 9th Circuit dismisses Chesapeake Exploration L.L.C’s appeal of the Feb. 27, 2020 ruling to invalidate BLM lease sales in Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. Western Watersheds Project v. Bernhardt, No. 20-35483 (9th Cir.).
Jan. 12, 2021 BLM appeals the D.C. District Court’s rejection of the Supplemental Environmental Assessment for Wyoming lease sales. WildEarth Guardians v. David Bernhardt, No. 21-5006 (D.C. Cir.).
BIDEN ADMINISTRATIONRead More
Jan. 20, 2021 Department of the Interior suspends all onshore oil and gas leasing for a 60 day period.
Jan. 20, 2021 President Biden revokes the Trump Executive Order 13783 titled “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth”. EO 13783 directed federal agencies to streamline the oil and gas leasing process and suspend, revise, or rescind regulations that burdened the development of domestic energy resources.
Jan. 27, 2021 President Biden signs EO 14008 that pauses all offshore and onshore oil and gas leasing pending a comprehensive review of the leasing and permitting program. It also revokes Trump’s EO 13795.
June 15, 2021 A federal judge in the Western District of Louisiana issues a preliminary injunction blocking President Biden’s pause on oil and gas lease sales. The court holds that the leasing moratorium violates statutory authority given to DOI, the Bureau of Land Management, and BOEM under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the current 5-year leasing program. The judge further holds that the immediate impact of the pause renders the preliminary injunction an appropriate remedy and that the DOI may not continue to pause upcoming Lease Sales 257 or 258. Louisiana v. Biden, Docket No. 2:21-CV-00778 (W.D. La.).
Aug. 9, 2021 Plaintiff states file a motion asking the court to order Lease Sale 257 and asking the federal government to show why its failure to make the sale does not put it in contempt of the preliminary injunction. Louisiana v. Biden, Docket No. 2:21-CV-00778 (W.D. La.).
Aug. 16, 2021 The Biden administration appeals the preliminary injunction that blocked the moratorium on new federal oil and gas leasing. Louisiana v. Biden, Docket No. 2:21-CV-00778 (W.D. La.).
Aug. 24, 2021 DOI announces that it will continue to prepare lease sales during the appeal process. The Department of Justice (DOJ) files a memorandum in response to the plaintiff states’ August 9 motion. DOJ argues that DOI had restarted the leasing program and was therefore complying with the preliminary injunction. DOJ further argues that the preliminary injunction did not require the Lease Sale to occur on any timeline, and the government was therefore entitled to complete a new environmental review. Louisiana v. Biden, Docket No. 2:21-CV-00778 (W.D. La.).
Nov. 26, 2021 DOI issues a report reviewing the federal oil and gas leasing process and making recommendations for reform. The report finds, among other things, that the current system does not give taxpayers fair returns and does not fully account for environmental harm, and that the current system encourages speculation by and decreases competition among oil companies. The report outlines recommendations to fix these problems and concludes that DOI is deciding how it will act on these recommendations and encourages Congress to pass reforms to the oil and gas leasing process.
Jan. 27, 2022 Western Energy Alliance petitions the District of Wyoming to review President Biden’s suspension of the oil and gas leasing program. Western Energy Alliance v. Biden, No. 0:21-cv-00013 (D. Wyo.).
Apr. 15, 2022 To comply with the preliminary injunction issued by the court in Louisiana v. Biden, the DOI announces that the BLM will issue notices for lease sales that will increase in royalty rates from 12.5% to 18.75% and limit the acreage available for leasing. Though this round of lease sales will move forward, the Biden administration continues its appeal of that injunction. Louisiana et al v Biden et al, Docket No. 2:21-cv-00778 (W.D. La.).
April 18, 2022: The BLM publishes final environmental assessments and sale notices for June 2022 lease sales. The final sale notices reduces the acreage of land available for leasing on public lands by 80% and increased royalty rates. For offshore leases, the current 5-year program is scheduled to end on June 30, 2022.
Apr. 19, 2022: The plaintiffs in Western Energy Alliance v. Biden assert that the notice put forward by the Bureau of Land Management still violates the Mineral Leasing Act because BLM did not establish a reliable and predictable leasing system in the future. A hearing in that case is scheduled for May 13. Western Energy Alliance v. Biden, No. 0:21-cv-00013 (D. Wyo.).
Apr. 29, 2022 Republican states attorneys general ask the Western District of Louisiana to grant summary judgment in the case challenging leasing pause. The states also challenge the cancellation of lease sales, including the cancellation of Lease Sale 257. Louisiana v. Biden, Docket No. 2:21-cv-00778 (W.D. La).
May 10, 2022 The Fifth Circuit hears oral arguments on the preliminary injunction that halted the Biden administration’s leasing pause. Louisiana v. Biden, Docket No. 21-30505 (5th Cir.).
June 28, 2022 Several environmental groups file a lawsuit in the District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that BLM violated NEPA by failing to issue a cumulative environmental impact statement. The groups also claim that the decision to hold lease sales violates the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which requires BLM to “take any action necessary to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of the lands.” Dakota Resource Council et. al v. Department of the Interior et al., Docket No. 1:22-cv-01853 (D.D.C.).
June 29, 2022 For the first time during the Biden administration, BLM holds lease sales for oil and gas drilling on federal lands, citing the preliminary injunction that stopped the Biden administration’s pause on lease sales. The auctions cover 173 parcels in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Utah.
Aug. 16, 2022 President Biden signs the Inflation Reduction Act into law. The IRA raises minimum rates and adds new fees for onshore oil and gas lease auctions, reinstates lease sales 257, 258,259, and 261, and requires minimum acres to be offered for oil and gas development before DOI can issue leases for offshore wind development. Read more about these requirements in our recent blog post.
Aug. 17, 2022 The 5th Circuit vacates the preliminary injunction that blocked the Biden administration’s pause on new oil and gas leases and remands the case for additional proceedings. The court held that the injunction was too vague, finding it unclear whether the injunction blocked an unwritten federal policy, a written agency policy, or President Biden’s 2021 executive order. Louisiana v. Biden, No. 21-30505 (5th Cir.).
Aug.18, 2022 The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana issues a permanent injunction that blocks President Biden’s pause on new oil and gas leases, holding that the executive order exceeded the president’s authority. The permanent injunction applies only to the thirteen plaintiff states: Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. Louisiana v. Biden, No. 2:21-CV-00778 (W.D. La.).
Oct. 6, 2022 BLM announces it will hold onshore oil and gas lease sales in Wyoming and New Mexico in accordance with the IRA. The Bureau is seeking public comment through November 7 on both prospective lease sales. The New Mexico lease sale is set for May 2023 and the Wyoming lease sale is set for an undetermined date in Spring 2023.
Nov. 3, 2022 The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana grants a motion to dismiss a NEPA claim and a jurisdictional claim from American Petroleum Institute and other trade groups challenging the Biden administration’s pause on oil and gas lease sales. Other causes of action from the complaint, including claims that the Mineral Leasing Act prohibits the pause, will be allowed to continue. American Petroleum Institute v. U.S. Dept of Interior , Docket No. 2:21-cv-02506 (W.D. La.).
Nov. 4, 2022 A group of tribal advocates and environmental organizations intervene and appeal a Sep.2022 D.C. Circuit ruling that reinstated a 6,000 acre oil and gas lease on land in Montana that is sacred to the Blackfeet Tribe. This case has been ongoing since 2013, when leaseholder, Solenex, claimed that BLM was delaying its ability to claim rights granted by the lease. Solenex v. Haaland, Docket No. 22-05291 (D.C. Cir.).
Apr. 3, 2023 BLM proposes a Conservation and Landscape Health Rule that would establish a new framework for BLM’s “multiple use and sustained yield” mission. The proposal clarifies that conservation is a use of federal land “on par with” mineral extraction and other uses.
July 24, 2023 BLM proposes the Fluid Mineral Leases and Leasing Process Rule, which would revise the federal onshore oil and gas leasing royalty rates, rentals, minimum bids, and bonding requirements. The agency says these proposed updates reflect the IRA’s leasing provisions and BLM’s multiple-use and sustained-yield mandate. Comments are open until Sep. 22, 2023. For more on the IRA’s onshore leasing provisions, see Sarah Hart’s paper.