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Permian Basin oil and gas leases garner opposition

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Samantha Cristoforetti
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The sedimentary Permian Basin located in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico, USA. Captured from aboard the International Space Station.

The Bureau of Land Management is set to auction off over 3200 acres of New Mexico’s land to oil and gas companies after public comment expires in early February.

Amid a growing climate crisis, environmentalists are voicing their concerns with this expansion in fossil fuel development in the Southwest.

A total of 35 parcels of land located in the southeastern corner of the state will be leased off to the highest bidder.

These leases are mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act — which was hailed as progress in reducing American emissions by the Biden Administration.

But, it contains a clause that requires up to 2 million acres of federal land be set aside for oil and gas production every year if any federal land is used for renewables.

The website Capital and Main called this a “ransom clause” to get fossil-fuel friendly politicians to sign off on the bill.

Miya King-Flaherty is with the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. She calls this area of the Permian Basin the “climate bomb.”

“By opening up more lands, it just furthers our dependence on fossil fuels, but it also places frontline communities at higher risk of these harmful and unacceptable health impacts and environmental consequences," King-Flaherty said.

There have been recent reforms to the leasing process. These include a significant increase in the cost of developing the land and the royalties paid. Plus, what the Department of the Interior calls strong engagement with stakeholders including tribes and community leaders.

Still, King-Flaherty said the pricing per acre is low and out of line with inflation.

Public comment can be submitted through February 6th, 2023.

Bryce Dix is our new local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
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