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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

Greens Threaten Lawsuit After BLM Issues Trump-Era Drilling Leases

The Bureau of Land Management is moving ahead with about three dozen new oil and gas leases in New Mexico, despite the Biden administration's decision in January to freeze such transactions across federal public lands.

The 37 leases, on lands within the massive Permian Basin oilfield, were originally put up for auction during the last days of the Trump administration. Still, Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians' energy and climate campaign director, believes they violate the moratorium that Biden's Interior Department put in place as it reviews the federal oil and gas leasing program's economics and climate impacts.

"It really struck us as odd that the Bureau of Land Management decided it was appropriate to essentially lease when the president has very explicitly said, 'There shall be no leasing at the moment,'" Nichols said. "We’re likely going to file a new lawsuit and sadly having to confront President Biden and Interior Secretary Haaland for turning their backs on climate science and the public interest."

Richard Packer, a BLM spokesperson, said the leases were issued after the agency determined that environmental reviews were complete and land management conflicts minimized.

"Lease sale postponements announced by the Biden-Harris administration have no impact on existing operations or permits for valid, existing leases," Packer said.

The BLM could issue over 200 more oil and gas leases in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming that were sold in the final weeks of the Trump administration, E&E News reports.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain We

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