Hundreds of Native American, religious, business and conservation organizations today called on the Biden administration to do a comprehensive environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws to align federal fossil fuel programs with U.S. climate goals to curb global warming.
The letter asks the Interior Department to evaluate a legal finding of climate harm from fossil fuel expansion. It describes how the administration can use existing laws to end new fossil fuel leasing onshore and offshore and manage a just, orderly decline of production consistent with its goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The letter also calls for the fair and meaningful involvement of communities vulnerable to climate change, affected by or dependent upon the federal fossil fuel program.
In February the Biden administration issued an executive order pausing oil and gas leasing onshore and offshore pending a climate review of federal fossil fuel programs. In June the Interior Department will issue an interim report describing findings from a March online forum and public comments being solicited through April 15.
In January, 574 conservation, Native American, religious and business groups sent the then president-elect text for a proposed executive order to ban new fossil fuel leasing and permitting on federal public lands and waters.
Today’s letter, authored by Western Environmental Law Center, the Center for Biological Diversity, Wildearth Guardians, and Sierra Club, was signed by organizations from across the U.S., many with members who live on the front lines of fossil fuel pollution and in communities harmed by climate change.
Quotes from organizations:
“The comprehensive review of the federal fossil fuels programs is a long-needed step in the right direction,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Taos, New Mexico-based Western Environmental Law Center. “Done right and coupled with investments in workers and front-line communities, it can spark a long-needed transition away from fossil fuels and towards a just, equitable, and climate-resilient economy where public lands serve as a cornerstone of climate resilience and conservation, not exploitation.”
“Runaway pollution from the federal fossil fuel programs has been worsening climate chaos for decades,” said Taylor McKinnon, a senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Biden administration must do a comprehensive review and make frontline communities a part of this process. This will inevitably show the need for a ban on new leasing and a just, orderly decline of oil and gas extraction on public lands and waters.”
“The climate crisis requires immediate action. The BLM must put a halt to all new leasing of public lands if there is any chance of avoiding the most severe impacts of a changing climate,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “For far too long the BLM has wrongly elevated oil and gas leasing and development as the primary use of our nation’s public lands, threatening our climate, wildlife, cultural treasures, and wild places. This unbalanced approach must stop now.”
“The writing on the wall is clear. The long-term health of our communities, economies and our climate requires phasing out fossil fuel leasing on public lands,” said Eric Huber, managing attorney for Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program. “We cannot afford to close our eyes to the dangers of inaction; we need bold action now to halt new leasing and to diversify economies in ways that allow everyone to benefit.”
“It’s time to put public lands and waters to work for our climate and justice, not for fossil fuels,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians. “We’re counting on President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to boldly reform federal oil and gas management to ensure we keep fossil fuels in the ground and our nation on track for climate progress.”
“Together our groups represent millions of people across the country all urging the Biden administration to put the health and safety of our communities and our climate before oil and gas profits,” said Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager at Friends of the Earth. “The Department of the Interior must meaningfully engage with the public and start managing our lands and waters for the public good instead of selling out future generations to prop up the fossil fuel industry. This starts with permanently halting new leases on public lands and waters.”
“As mothers and grandmothers, we want to know that future generations have clean air, clean water, and a climate-resilient economy. Our best use of public lands is to ensure the safety and health of America’s communities, and our land, water, and wildlife,” said Shelley Silbert, executive director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “The fossil fuel industry has for too long put profit above all else. The leasing pause is a valuable way to review impacts and align priorities towards a livable future.”
“Winding down federal oil and gas leasing and permitting programs is critical to saving the West” said Natasha Léger, executive director of Citizens for a Healthy Community. “The largest climate hotspot in the U.S. is over the 15 water-producing counties for seven states in the West and Mexico, where we’re experiencing extreme drought. We cannot expect to adapt our way out of the climate, ecological, and health crises exacerbated by oil and gas extraction.”
Fossil fuel production on public lands causes about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate-policy proposals.
Oil, gas and coal extraction uses mines, well pads, gas lines, roads and other infrastructure that destroys habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Oil spills and other harms from offshore drilling have done immense damage to ocean wildlife and coastal communities. Fracking and mining also pollute watersheds and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people.
Federal fossil fuels that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution; those already leased to industry contain up to 43 billion tons. Pollution from the world’s already producing oil and gas fields, if fully developed would push global warming well past 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Western Environmental Law Center, 575-770-1295,
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, 801-300-2414,
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, 804-519-8449,
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, 303-437-7663,
Alabama Interfaith Power & Light, Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), Amigos Bravos, Animal Welfare Institute, Animals Are Sentient Beings, Inc, Animas Valley Institute, Anthropocene Alliance, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Athens County’s Future Action Network aka Athens County Fracking Action Network, Aytzim: Ecological Judaism, Azul, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Breast Cancer Action, Bronx Jewish Earth Alliance, Bucks County Concerned Citizens Against the Pipelines, Bucks Environmental Action, Businesses for a Livable Climate, California League of Conservation Voters, Californians for Western Wilderness, Call to Action CO, CatholicNetwork.US, CELL, Center for Civic Policy, Center for International Environmental Law, Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), Central Bergen Circle of GreenFaith, Central Colorado Wilderness Coalition, Chaco Alliance, Church Women United in New York State, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Climable, Inc., Climate Action Now Western Mass, Climate Advocates Voces Unidas (CAVU), Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas (CFROG), Climate Hawks Vote, Climate Hawks Vote, Climate Health Now, Coalition for Outreach, Policy & Education, Colorado Rising, Common Ground Rising, Community for Sustainable Energy, Community Health, Conservation Voters New Mexico, Cooperative Energy Futures, Corporate Ethics International, Corvallis Interfaith Climate Justice Committee / Corvallis Carbon Offset Fund, Defend Our Future, Defenders of Wildlife, Defiende Nuestra Tierra, Diné C.A.R.E., Earth Action, Earth Action, Inc, Earth Action, Inc., Earth Day.org, Earthworks, EcoFlight, Endangered Habitats League, Endangered Habitats League, Endangered Species Coalition, Environmental Protection Information Center, Environmental Protection Information Center, Extinction Rebellion San Francisco Bay Area, First United Methodist Church, Environmental Care Team, Food & Water Watch, Fossil Free California, Foundation Earth, FracTracker Alliance, FreshWater Accountability Project, Friends of the Earth, Gas Free Seneca, GASP, Georgia Conservation Voters, Geos Institute, Golden Egg Permaculture, Grassroots Coalition, Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, GreenFaith, Greenpeace USA, Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association, Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, HealthLink, Inc, Healthy Gulf, Heartwood, High Country Conservation Advocates, Idle No More Michigan, Indigenous Environmental Network, Inspiration of Sedona, Interfaith Earthkeepers of Eugene/Springfield, International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute, JewishClimateAction-MA, John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute, Kickapoo Peace Circle, Klamath Forest Alliance, KyotoUSA, Lifelong Medical, Los Padres ForestWatch, Lynn Canal Conservation, Malach Consulting, Massachusetts Forest Watch, MassAmerican Energy LLC, Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, Mission Blue, Montana Environmental Information Center, MountainTrue, Native American Caucus, New Mexico Sportsmen, New Mexico Wild, New Hampshire Audubon, New Mexico Environmental Law Center, No Coal In Richmond, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, North Carolina Council of Churches, North Range Concerned Citizens, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Northern Arizona Climate Change Alliance, NY4WHALES, Oasis Earth, Ocean Conservation Research, Oceanic Preservation Society, Oil Change International, Oregon Wild, Our Climate Education Fund, Our Revolution Michigan, Patagonia, Pelican Media, People’s Party, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Social Responsibility Arizona Chapter, Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida Chapter, Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania Chapter, PNM Shareholders for a Responsible Future, ProgressNow New Mexico, Public Lands Project, Pueblo Action Alliance, Rachel Carson Council, RapidShift Network, Raptors Are The Solution, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Resource Renewal Institute, Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens, Rio Grande Indivisible, NM, River Guardian Foundation, RootsAction.org, Safe Energy Now/North County, San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility, Santa Barbara County Action Network, Santa Barbara Standing Rock Coalition, Santa Barbara Urban Creeks Council, Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce, Save Our Shores, SAVE THE FROGS!, Seaside Sustainability, Seneca Lake Guardian, A Waterkeeper Alliance Affiliate, Seventh Generation, Sisters of Charity Federation, Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York, Social Eco Education (SEE-LA), Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Spottswoode Winery, Inc., Sunflower Alliance, Sungage Financial LLC, Sunrise Corvallis, Syracuse Cultural Workers, System Change Not Climate Change, Tennessee Riverkeeper, The Climate Center, The Enviro Show, The Forest Foundation, Inc., The Samuel Lawrence Foundation, To Nizhoni Ani, Toxics Information Project (TIP), Turner Endangered Species Fund, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Unite North Metro Denver, United for Action (based in NYC), Upper Green River Alliance, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, V & T Ventures, LLC, Vote Climate, Wall of Women, Wasatch Clean Air Coalition, WATCH, Inc, Waterkeeper Alliance, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, WCCUSD, WESPAC Foundation, Inc., Western Colorado Alliance, Western Watersheds Project, Wild Connections, Wilderness Workshop, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), Wyoming Sierra Club, 2degrees Northampton, 350 Colorado, 350 Conejo / San Fernando Valley, 350 Everett, WA, 350 Hawaii, 350 Humboldt, 350 Mass Metro North Node, 350 New Orleans, 350 Seattle, 350 Silicon Valley, 350.org. 350.org New Mexico, 350Corvallis, 350Kishwaukee, 7 Directions of Service