Nearly 142,000 Acres Of Public Land In Colorado Are Being Considered For Federal Oil And Gas Leasing

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
An oil pumpjack in Weld County on Friday, March 5, 2021.

The federal government will resume selling oil and gas leases after a U.S. district judge blocked the Biden administration’s pause on new leasing earlier this summer.

The Bureau of Land Management listed hundreds of thousands of acres identified for oil and gas leasing on Tuesday. This includes 119 parcels of public land in Colorado encompassing nearly 142,000 acres, according to the bureau’s list of potential lease sales.

Most of the public land being considered in Colorado is located in Las Animas County in the southeastern part of the state, according to data mapped by CPR News. Other potential lease sales are located in Weld, Moffat and Routt counties. 

There will be a public feedback period and an environmental review before the final parcels are selected for auction early next year — the first quarterly auction for federal oil and gas leases under the Biden administration. 

Biden halted new oil and gas leases on federally controlled public lands in one of his first acts in office. The burning of fossil fuels accounts for most of the greenhouse gas emissions in the country, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Those carbon emissions are cited as the driving force behind human-caused climate change.

About a quarter of U.S. oil and an eighth of the nation’s natural gas are produced on federal land. About 2.4 million acres of public land in Colorado was leased through most of 2020, BLM data show.

A coalition of energy states sued the administration, challenging the legality of Biden’s executive action. A federal district judge in Louisiana blocked the pause in June; the administration is appealing the decision.

Colorado was not one of the states involved in the lawsuit.

In a statement last week, the U.S. Department of the Interior said it would resume the leasing program “as required by the district court.” The parcels currently under consideration were postponed from quarterly sales that were paused earlier this year, according to BLM.

Environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth, decried the program’s return. 

“Considering the climate is heading down a catastrophic, unsustainable path, stopping new oil and gas leasing that would lock in decades of fossil fuel extraction is the least Biden could do,” Nicole Ghio, the organization’s senior fossil fuels program manager, said in a statement.