Since taking office last week, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that halts new oil and gas leases on federal lands.
This could have a big impact on Colorado, which is the nation’s seventh-largest energy producing state. Statewide, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management controls over 4,000 oil and gas leases, most of which provide the biggest income source for a handful of counties.
Federal lands are concentrated mostly in the Western U.S., where national parks and monuments take up massive acreages. Each U.S. state outside the West has under 15% percent of its land owned by the federal government. However when you look at the 12 states west of the Great Plains, the federal government owns half of the available acreage.
With the land comes the leases. Colorado has the fourth-highest amount of leased federal acres in the U.S.
Biden’s executive order comes at a time when the amount of leased federal acres has been steadily falling for 15 years. There are now 15 million fewer federally-leased acres now than there was in 2000. The number of federally-leased acres in every state has declined at the same rate with the exceptions of North Dakota and Louisiana.
Colorado is the seventh-largest energy producing state in the U.S., which has been driven in the last 10 years by an increase in natural gas and crude oil production. It ranks fifth in natural gas production and seventh in crude oil. Crude oil production alone more than quintupled between 2010 and 2015.
Biden’s freeze puts on hold leases for 111,340 acres of land in Jackson, Las Animas, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Weld counties. If the temporary freeze becomes a permanent ban on new leases, as many predict it will, that will cost jobs and income for energy-producing states like Colorado.
The American Petroleum Institute estimates Colorado would lose 18,000 jobs by 2022 with a federal leasing ban, and it’s safe to assume most of those jobs would come from the handful of counties where most Colorado energy production happens.