Western States and Tribal Nations Natural Gas Initiative Statement on Federal Leasing Ban

Denver, CO – The Western States and Tribal Nations Natural Gas Initiative (WSTN) issued the following statement today in response to President Biden’s executive order halting all oil and gas leases on all federal lands and waters for an indefinite period:

“This decision may be symbolic of our shared desire to address domestic environmental issues, but it is unfortunately emblematic of a dynamic that pits energy production against environmental protection – at the expense of both,” WSTN President Andrew Browning said. “WSTN firmly believes that our energy resources and environmental challenges offer complementary and even revolutionary solutions at the global level for those who are able to look beyond the either-or rhetoric.”

“We urge the Biden Administration to seek a middle path that unifies our environmental aspirations and global leadership with our desire to create durable economic growth at home, especially in the western states and tribal nations which have natural resources that can generate decades of funding for essential government services,” Browning said.

WSTN is pleased that the Administration lawfully recognized tribal sovereignty through its exclusion of tribal lands from the order, but these sovereign nations will not be inoculated from the financial blowback it will cause. Additionally, blocking investments on federal lands disproportionately hurts Western states because roughly 90% of federal lands are located in the West, which reduces the taxable land available to generate revenue for those governments.

“The Administration must recognize that hampering operations on federal lands will limit the economic and market opportunities available to tribal governments, and needlessly prohibits investments that bring tangible value to our citizens in the form of education and social services,” said WSTN Chairman of the Board Jason Sandel, who is also the State of New Mexico’s appointed representative to WSTN.

“Our tribal nations and states have been hit hard by the post-COVID fallout across the economy, and especially in the energy sector, which had ably filled revenue gaps across the region,” Sandel said. “We urge the Biden Administration to carefully weigh the negative impact this decision will have against the everyday benefits environmentally produced energy provides for so many people in the form of an improving global emissions footprint, lasting economic value and social services.”

One way to do that is by supporting collaborative policies that enable LNG exports to the growing Asian economies from the west coast of North America, which will have the additional benefit of enabling the United States to burnish its soft power among allies and trading partners, while creating lasting economic benefit for underserved tribal and rural communities at home.

“From the start, the governments and tribes that lead WSTN have sought to lower global environmental emissions by seeking a route to export the most cleanly produced natural gas in the world to Asian markets, as an alternative to the dirtier fuels that now meet their ever-expanding demands,” Sandel said. “The American environmental lesson, demonstrated by two decades of the largest absolute emissions reductions on the planet, is one we are morally obligated to share.”

WSTN and its stakeholders are currently developing an environmental gold standard for natural gas production, building on the leadership of its member states. For example, New Mexico, is in the middle of creating ambitious methane regulations that would be among the most stringent in the world, and is treating oil and gas operators as partners in their formulation.

“Western governments see the economic and social value of oil and gas development, and know that it can co-exist with stringent environmental standards that encourage technological innovation in the companies with a financial interest at stake, and the know-how to succeed,” Browning said. “We stand ready to work with the Biden Administration in developing similarly empowering policies that put balance and benefit to the maximum number of stakeholders over a winner-take-all approach.”


About Western States and Tribal Nations

Western States and Tribal Nations is a unique, trans-national initiative led by, state, county and sovereign tribal nation governments focused on creating rural economic development, advancing tribal self-determination and reducing global emissions by exporting western North American natural gas to international markets that need lower-emitting fuel.


Bryson Hull P: 202-657-2855

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