As President Biden prepares to announce a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing and permitting on public lands and oceans, 32 climate, conservation, religious and business groups in Colorado today announced support for the move in a letter to the president.
Biden promised during the campaign that he would ban new leasing and permitting activities.
The groups’ letter warns that federal fossil fuel expansion will worsen climate-related damage in Colorado, including floods and wildfires, more severe heatwaves and droughts, and increasing food and water insecurity — including in the Colorado River Basin.
“It is causing the collapse of ecosystems and hastening the extinction crisis,” the letter said. “Colorado’s ski industry has declared that climate change is its ‘greatest threat’ and that ‘government must act’…Parts of western Colorado have already seen warming of 2°C; further warming threatens organic agriculture in the region.”
The letter said a leasing ban aligns with the state of Colorado’s climate goals. Its legislature has declared that “we must work together to reduce statewide greenhouse gas pollution in order to limit the increase in the global average temperature to one and one-half degrees Celsius.” Potential greenhouse gas pollution from oil, gas and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines, even without any new leasing or permitting, would take the world beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In addition to helping safeguard Colorado’s climate, ending new leasing and permitting would protect many of the state’s most treasured public lands and vulnerable communities. Oil and gas infrastructure is omnipresent in parts of Colorado, threatening public health, schools, neighborhoods, low-income communities and communities of color.
Groups signing today’s letter are 350 Colorado; Be the Change, Colorado; Call to Action Colorado; CatholicNetwork; Center for Biological Diversity; Central Colorado Wilderness Coalition; Citizens for a Healthy Community; Clean Energy Action; Colorado Businesses for a Livable Climate; Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate; Colorado Latino Forum; Colorado Rising; Colorado Sierra Club; Community for Sustainable Energy; Estes Valley Clean Energy Coalition; Fort Collins Sustainability Group; Great Old Broads for Wilderness; High Country Conservation Advocates; Mothers Out Front; National Parks Conservation Association; Physicians for Social Responsibility Colorado, RapidShift Network, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council; Seven Generation, LLC; The Climate Mobilization – Colorado; The Wilderness Society; Unite North Metro Denver; Western Environmental Law Center; Wild Connections; WildEarth Guardians; Wilderness Workshop; and Wind & Solar Denver.
Statements from Colorado groups:
“Imposing a moratorium on new public lands oil and gas leases and permits is a sensible step to provide the Biden administration with the opportunity to repair the immense damage to public lands, wildlife and public-health safeguards caused by the previous administration,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “A moratorium also provides all stakeholders the opportunity to make their case regarding the future of the public lands oil and gas program that is aligned with the urgency demanded by the climate crisis.”
“Colorado and the planet can’t afford the greenhouse gas pollution that would come with new fossil fuel extraction on public lands,” said Taylor McKinnon, a senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Aligning our nation’s public-land policies with its climate goals is long overdue. Halting new leases is a good first step to keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”
“We need to phase out oil and gas production entirely in Colorado and throughout the U.S. over the coming decade,” said Kevin Cross of the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate. “The leasing ban on public lands that we expect President Biden to impose is a good place to start. We can’t frack our way out of the climate crisis.”
“The North Fork Valley in Southwest Colorado is in the middle of a climate hotspot warming faster than the global average and has been calling for no new oil and gas leasing of our surrounding public lands and watershed for over a decade,” said Natasha Léger, executive director at Citizens for a Healthy Community. “53,000 no-leasing public comments were submitted to the Bureau of Land Management in 2016 and ignored when the BLM approved the Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan in April 2020 to open up 95% of BLM lands and minerals to oil and gas leasing. A ban on new fossil fuel leasing and permitting on public lands is critical to our hard-fought efforts to preserve vital local ecosystems necessary for a resilient and livable future.”
“Colorado can’t follow through on bold climate action if the federal government is simply going to rubber-stamp more fossil fuel extraction from the state’s public lands,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. “A halt to selling public lands for fracking is a critical step forward for comprehensive climate action and justice in Colorado.”
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 in recent years.
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 already-leased fossil fuels on federal lands, if fully developed, would exhaust the U.S. carbon budget for keeping the world below a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature increase.
Existing laws give presidents the authority to end new federal fossil fuel leasing. Hundreds of organizations have petitioned the federal government to end new onshore and offshore leasing. More than 500 groups have called on Biden to enact his commitment to “banning new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters.”