Legal Petition Calls On Biden to Phase Out Federal Oil, Gas by 2035
WASHINGTON— More than 360 climate, tribal, religious and conservation groups petitioned the Biden administration today to use its executive authority to phase out oil and gas production on public lands and oceans.
The petition provides a framework to manage a decline of oil and gas production to near zero by 2035 through rulemaking, using long-dormant provisions of the Mineral Leasing Act, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the National Emergencies Act. Without such action, it will become increasingly difficult for the United States to meet its pledge to help avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming and its unprecedented social, environmental and economic damage.
The petition offers a way to correct the Biden administration’s collapse of climate leadership, including a failing legislative agenda and Biden’s broken campaign promise to end new oil and gas leasing and drilling on public lands and oceans.
Several analyses show that climate pollution from the world’s already-producing fossil fuel developments, if fully developed, would push warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius, and that avoiding such warming requires ending new investment in fossil fuel projects.
At November’s 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 plans to offer more than 300,000 acres of public lands leases in March.
The Department of the Interior’s review of the federal oil and gas programs effectively ignored climate, calling instead for adjustments to royalties, bids and bonding.
Meanwhile, the administration has continued to approve drilling permits onshore at a rate that outpaces the Trump administration, with more than 3,500 permits approved since taking office.
Federal fossil fuel production causes nearly a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution, worsening the climate and extinction crises and disproportionately harming Black, Brown, Indigenous and low-wealth communities.
Quotes from Petitioners
“This petition offers a lifeline for our planet and a course correction for the Biden administration’s catastrophic failure of climate leadership,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The natural place to start phasing out climate-destroying oil and gas production is on our public lands and oceans, and Biden has the authority to do so. If the U.S. leads, the world will follow. Biden must keep his promise to end federal oil and gas extraction.”
“It’s time to open new doors to a thriving, resilient future for our Western U.S. public lands and communities,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “This petition does just that by winding down a cause of the climate crisis: a federal public lands fossil fuels program that serves the interests of oil and gas CEOs and investors, not the public good. We urge the Biden administration to accept the petition and move forward with swift action to protect the climate and public lands.”
“At this time in history, according to Anishinaabe prophecies, people have a choice between a well-worn, scorched path and one that is new and green,” said Winona LaDuke, executive director for Honor the Earth. “By all measures of science, spirit and humanity, it is incumbent upon you, President Biden and Secretary Haaland, to deliver on your promises to forge that safer path, ending fossil production on public lands and waters. We worked hard to help you gain office, and you abandoned us on Line 3; here is another significant opportunity to do the right thing. Here at White Earth we are celebrating the end of the fossil era, practicing our sustainable traditions and building the new green economy. We welcome you to come see how it’s done.”
“Last year over 132 million Americans experienced a climate-related disaster, with extreme weather costing over $145 billion in damage and leading to more than 688 lives lost,” said Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager at Friends of the Earth. “We cannot fight climate change while ignoring the fact that nearly a quarter of U.S. climate emissions come from fossil fuel extraction on public lands. It’s time for President Biden to become the climate leader he claims to be and phase out fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters.”
“This petition simply calls on President Biden to exercise the climate leadership he’s already promised this country,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We can’t confront the climate crisis unless and until we start keeping fossil fuels in the ground; it’s time for the president to acknowledge and take action on this reality.”
“Fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters must end or it will only intensify the already devastating impacts to our climate and waterways,” said Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “Indigenous and underserved communities disproportionately bear the brunt of these impacts that result from long-standing federal policies that have favored industry over public interest. It’s time the Biden administration keeps its promises and uses its position of power to be a climate leader that stems the tide of fossil fuel dependence.”
“Oil and gas extraction is an environmental justice issue, continuing centuries’ old exploitation and assaults on our Appalachian Ohio communities while greatly contributing to the climate crisis,” said Roxanne Groff of Athens County’s Future Action Network. “Our region is ripe for new technologies and innovative, cost-effective clean energy to protect our air, water, forests, and climate and improve public health and our quality of life. Appalachian Ohio’s Wayne National Forest can play a huge role in protecting climate. Drilling and logging it do not serve the public good and must cease. This proposed phase-out is the least the Biden administration can do toward that end.”
“Right now, fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters make up a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions — at a time scientists are saying we must move urgently to cut emissions by at least half,” said Dan Ritzman, director of Sierra Club’s Lands, Water, Wildlife program. “Not only does it devastate our planet, it’s a handout to Big Oil at the expense of average Americans, who will bear the brunt of its societal, health, and financial ramifications. We urge the Biden Administration to take advantage of this historic opportunity to make good on campaign promises, fulfill a global commitment to acting on climate, and serve American communities by accepting this petition and phasing out oil and gas production on public lands and oceans.”
Communications contact: Brittany Miller, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0746, [email protected]