Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 24, 2023


Taylor McKinnon, (801) 300-2414,

Biden Administration Oil, Gas Drilling Approvals Outpace Trump’s

Massive Fossil Fuel Expansion Undermines U.S. Climate Commitments

WASHINGTON— Federal data show the Biden administration approved 6,430 permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands in its first two years, outpacing the Trump administration’s 6,172 drilling-permit approvals in its first two years.

The Biden administration’s policy of fossil fuel expansion contradicts the clear climate science that fossil fuel growth must be stopped and governments must phase out fossil fuels to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.

“Two years of runaway drilling approvals are a spectacular failure of climate leadership by President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Avoiding catastrophic climate change requires phasing out fossil fuel extraction, but instead we’re still racing in the opposite direction.”

The Biden-approved drilling permits will result in more than 800 million tons of estimated equivalent greenhouse gas pollution, or the annual climate pollution from about 217 coal-fired power plants.

Nearly 4,000 of the Biden permits are on public lands administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s New Mexico office, followed by 1,223 drilling permits in Wyoming, and several hundred each in Utah, Colorado, California, Montana and North Dakota.

Scientific analyses show climate pollution from the world’s already producing fossil fuel developments, if fully developed, will push warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius. Avoiding such warming requires ending new investment in fossil fuel projects and phasing out production to keep as much as 40% of already developed fields in the ground.

Despite campaign promises to end new federal oil and gas leasing and drilling, the administration has not enacted any policies to significantly limit drilling permits or manage a decline of production to avoid 1.5 C degrees of warming. It supported Sen. Joe Manchin’s demands to add provisions to the Inflation Reduction Act that will lock in fossil fuel leasing for the next decade.

“The president and Interior secretary have the power to avoid a climate catastrophe, but they need to change course rapidly,” said McKinnon. “Strong executive action can meet the climate emergency with the urgency it demands, starting with phasing out fossil fuel production on public lands and waters.”

At the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Biden called climate change “an existential threat to human existence” and pledged to cut U.S. emissions by up to 51% over the next nine years. Days later the administration offered 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing, and it has since expanded oil and gas leasing onshore.

The administration has ignored petitions from hundreds of climate, conservation, Indigenous and environmental justice groups calling on it to phase out federal oil and gas production and constrain the federal fossil fuel programs under existing laws.

The Interior Department review of federal oil and gas programs effectively ignored climate, calling instead for adjustments to royalties, bids and bonding. Federal fossil fuel production causes nearly one-quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution, worsening the climate and extinction crises and disproportionately harming communities of color and of low wealth.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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