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Oil and gas rights to 250,000 acres of Wyoming public lands to be auctioned off next year

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Stephanie Joyce

The federal government will move forward with leasing some public land for oil and gas drilling in Wyoming, New Mexico and Kansas as part of a mandate from congressional action.

The Department of Interior announced Thursday, Oct. 6, that it will take steps to lease oil and gas rights to about 261,210 acres of public land primarily in Wyoming.

This is in response to Congress’ newly passed Inflation Reduction Act, which mandates some oil and gas leasing. The White House is touting the act as one of the “most aggressive actions on tackling the climate crisis in American history.

Shortly after the announcement, environmental groups began issuing press releases opposing the leasing.

“It’s ludicrous that in the midst of a climate crisis we would be committing more fossil fuels to leasing and development that will only worsen that harm,” said Taylor McKinnon, a senior advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.

McKinnon said he anticipates future lawsuits.

Only one sale has taken place since President Biden took office. Typically they happen four times a year. However, Biden announced he was pausing sales when he took office due to climate concerns. A variety of lawsuits followed that prompted the one lease sale this summer.

Oil and gas proponents say leasing is necessary for the industry to thrive.

Ryan McConnaughey, the vice president and director of communications for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said he is cautiously optimistic about the sale announcement.

“While the amount of acreage listed in the sale would be good for a quarterly lease sale, in general, you have to take into consideration that it may be one of only one or two lease sales in 2023,” McConnaughey said.

Public comment is open for 30 days. The projected sale date is March 2023.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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