News Coverage

17 May 2023

US SENATOR CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO: Cortez Masto Introduces Legislation to Limit Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing on Lands with Low Potential for Development

Category: News Coverage

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) re-introduced the End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act to prohibit oil and gas leasing on public lands that have low or no potential for oil and gas development. The bill would update the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) administration of public lands, cut wasteful speculation, and allow lands with low or no potential to be reprioritized for more appropriate purposes, including wildlife habitat preservation, outdoor recreation, and grazing. Representative Susie Lee (D-Nev.-03) is introducing companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The BLM is wasting time, money, and resources leasing land to oil and gas companies that we know has little actual potential for development, and my legislation would curb this unnecessary and harmful practice,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This is commonsense legislation that will help us protect our great outdoor spaces in Nevada and across the country.”

“Public lands belong in public hands, not tied up in costly and unproductive fossil fuel speculation,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Over eighty percent of Nevada lands are public lands, with very limited oil and gas resources. Companies are leasing our public lands for pennies on the dollar, ten years at a time. On top of that, precious federal funding and staff time continue to be wasted on leasing proposals that expend far more energy than they actually produce in the Silver State. I’m proud to join Senator Cortez Masto to introduce legislation that promotes better land-use management, protects our outdoor spaces, maximizes government efficiency, and saves your taxpayer dollars.”

“Senator Cortez Masto’s bill and Representative Susie Lee’s companion bill to prohibit the leasing of lands that have low or no drilling potential is a strong first step toward ensuring that we protect our public lands for the benefit of local economies, public health, access to the outdoors, and our shared history and culture. We urge Congress to pass this legislation. The Biden administration must also take action to advance promised reforms to our federal oil and gas leasing system that will further safeguard our public lands and the communities that depend on them,” said Maite Arce, President & CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation.

“We support Senator Cortez Masto and Representative Lee's efforts to advance a bill that would put an end to this wasteful practice and enhance the management of more sustainable revenue-generating activities on our public lands like hunting, fishing, tourism, and outdoor recreation. This bill is an urgently needed solution to a problem that has plagued our public lands, taxpayers, and local economies for years. When passed, this bill will play an essential part in ensuring the protection of our public spaces and complements our nation’s leadership in clean energy generation,” said Angelyn Tabalba, Communications Director at Nevada Conservation League and Education Fund.

“Trout Unlimited has long advocated for responsible energy development that is balanced with other multiple uses, such as recreation and fish and wildlife conservation,” said Pam Harrington, Nevada field manager for Trout Unlimited. “However, in places like Nevada’s Ruby Mountains, the potential for energy development is low and the risk is extremely high for degrading fish and wildlife and world class hunting and angling opportunities. The current system does not benefit American taxpayers and creates unnecessary land management conflicts with fish, wildlife, outdoor recreation and other multiple-use activities…It’s a wasteful, outdated process and we thank Senator Cortez Masto and Representative Lee for helping to end oil and gas speculation on our public lands.”

Senator Cortez Masto’s End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act would require BLM to regularly assess oil and gas development potential on public lands, and it would prohibit BLM from offering leases on lands determined to have low or no development potential. This bill would reduce speculative leasing and concentrate development efforts on areas with higher development potential. This proposal would not apply to existing production sites or lands already under lease, rather it would only apply to future lease sales.

The legislation is supported by Nevada Conservation League, Nevada Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Colorado Wildlife Federation, Conservation Lands Foundation, Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, Dakota Resource Council, Earthjustice, Earthworks, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Hispanics Enjoying Camping Hunting and the Outdoors (​​HECHO), Hispanic Access Foundation, League of Conservation Voters, Montana Wildlife Federation, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Plains Resource Council, Public Lands Solutions, Rocky Mountain Wild, Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Taxpayers for Common Sense, The Wilderness Society, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited, Vet Voice Foundation, Western Colorado Alliance, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Wilderness Workshop, Wild Montana, and Wyoming Outdoor Council. Additional statements of support can be found here.

Senator Cortez Masto has been a champion for Nevada’s great outdoor spaces and public lands. She’s introduced legislation to ban unproductive oil and gas development in Nevada’s beautiful and pristine Ruby Mountains. She passed critical legislation to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which protects public lands in Nevada and across the U.S. Cortez Masto has also introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to restore Lake Tahoe, and she delivered critical funding to protect Lake Tahoe in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

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