Big Movement for Oil & Gas Leasing on Public Lands

Yesterday the House Natural Resources Committee held an Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee hearing to discuss many of the ongoing issues with oil & gas leasing on federal public lands.

Hosted on Youtube, the Natural Resources Committee hosted a live hearing for several bills introduced by Representative Porter, Representative Lowenthal, Representative DeGette, and Representative Levin.  These bills aim to collectively reform leasing on public lands and make the oil and gas leasing system work for everyone, not just big corporations and polluters.

Here are summaries for each bill:

You can watch the playback of the hearing on Youtube here.

In addition, the Department of Interior has announced a virtual public forum to discuss problems with the federal oil and gas leasing system, a framework that has been in place and largely untouched since the 1920s!

Our current leasing system is a big threat to public lands and water quality across Montana, and particularly in Southwest Montana, where tens of thousands of acres of federal mineral rights exist subsurface, many of which are adjacent to or upstream of our cherished blue-ribbon trout streams like the Beaverhead and Big Hole.  Equally bad, the leasing program sells off development rights on public lands for the cost of a hamburger, while leaving the public with little recourse after degradation and pollution spills, a real raw deal for Americans and our public lands.

Remember in 2018 and again in 2019 when the Bureau of Land Management proposed selling off thousands of acres of public lands for oil and gas development upstream of the Big Hole and Beaverhead?  We do. Luckily, those proposals were shot down in the face of overwhelming public opposition, but under current leasing law those proposals could pop back up just like a whack-a-mole at the County fair.

The leasing system as it stands prioritizes corporate profits over the health of lands and waters, threatens our irreplaceable cultural resources, and risks our health and outdoors heritage.  The Department of Interior is charting a new path by implementing a transparent process to review and update the federal oil and gas leasing system, a marked change in policy and willingness from anything seen in the last twenty years.

As part of this new path, the Department is holding a virtual public forum on March 25.  Members of the public can also write comments.  Read more in their press release, issued yesterday.

Upper Missouri Waterkeeper is working on how we can take high-priority landscapes and waterways in SW Montana “off the table” for oil and gas leasing.  Some places are too special, too unique, and already offering plenty of value to degrade and pollute for short-term corporate profits.  SW Montana’s Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Centennials are these types of special places that deserve special protection.

Stay tuned for opportunities on how you can raise your voice to protect special places in SW Montana from reckless oil and gas development on public lands.