WASHINGTON, December 15, 2020 — Hundreds of conservation, Native American, religious and business groups today sent President-elect Joe Biden text for a proposed executive order to ban new fossil fuel leasing and permitting on federal public lands and waters.
Biden promised during the campaign that he would stop new leasing and permitting activities on his first day in office. The executive order highlighted in today’s letter from 538 organizations outlines the steps needed for the next Interior Secretary to implement the president’s directive.
“Fossil fuels are killing our planet, so we’ve got to keep what’s left in the ground,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We must commit to bold, urgent action to address both the climate and wildlife extinction crises. The first order of business at the Interior Department should be to fully implement Biden’s pledge to ban all new federal oil and gas leasing.”
Under the proposed order, new leasing, permitting or development of fossil fuels on public lands or waters would be put on hold while the Interior Department reviews the climate impacts from those activities. Development could restart only if the review showed that fossil fuel development would be consistent with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 to near zero by 2040 and if climate change can be kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
For offshore oil and gas, Biden would withdraw all unleased portions of the Outer Continental Shelf, thereby halting all new oil and gas lease sales. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would stop issuing all new permits and development until the programmatic review was complete.
For onshore oil and gas, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service would halt processing of leasing nominations, lease sales and development permits, including permits to drill new wells. The Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement would halt all new leases for coal.
In addition, the Interior and Justice departments would begin a review process of previously issued leases and permits. The agencies would take action to cancel any leases or permits obtained through fraud or misrepresentation or that were otherwise improperly issued.
The proposed executive order says the United States must lead the world in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, which must be urgently and dramatically reduced to avoid catastrophic damage from climate change. Fossil fuels are responsible for 75% of all greenhouse gas emissions and more than 90% of carbon dioxide emissions. Fossil fuel production on public lands causes about a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas pollution.
Federal fossil fuels that have not been leased to the 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, gas and coal fields, if fully developed, would push warming far beyond the 1.5-degree Celsius target.
Groups convening today’s letter are the Center for Biological Diversity, Azul, Central California Environmental Justice Network, Climate Justice Alliance, Cook Inletkeeper, Data for Progress, Diné C.A.R.E., Eyak Preservation Council, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, Indigenous Environmental Network, Indivisible, Labor Network for Sustainability, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Native Conservancy, Oil Change International, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, Western Environmental Law Center, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Wishtoyo Foundation, 350 Colorado and 350.org.