Department of Interior leasing policies responsible for one quarter of U.S. carbon emissions

For Immediate Release


Expert contact: Marissa Knodel, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0729,

Communications contact: Kate Colwell, (202) 222-0744,

Department of Interior leasing policies responsible for one quarter of U.S. carbon emissions

WASHINGTON - An analysis completed by the Climate Accountability Institute for the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth finds that federal leasing for oil, natural gas and coal authorized by the Department of the Interior is responsible for approximately one-quarter of U.S. fossil fuel emissions and 3-4 percent of global fossil fuel emissions between 2003 and 2014. This finding was used to inform comments submitted today to the Department of the Interior by Friends of the Earth on a proposed rule seeking that the agency modifies the way royalty payments are assessed.

“My calculations find that the Department of Interior’s management of leases authorizing the extraction of fossil fuels on the public lands under its management results in approximately 25 percent of U.S. carbon emissions in the past decade,” said Rick Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute. “25 percent is very significant for one single legal entity, governmental or private, and responsibility for 3-4 percent of global fossil fuel emissions should warrant the attention by policymakers and the White House.”

Fossil fuel leasing decisions made by the Department of the Interior have a material and significant impact on U.S. and global carbon emissions, which is not currently reflected in how these fuels are valued for royalty purposes. The Office of Natural Resources Revenue recently proposed changes to how it values onshore coal, oil and gas for royalty valuation. Recent reports from the Government Accountability Office and the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General found that current policies undervalue leases for fossil fuel extraction, costing the American taxpayer millions of dollars every year.

Friends of the Earth’s comments charge the Department of the Interior is failing to fulfill its statutory responsibility to receive the fair market value for the development of fossil fuels from public lands and waters. The comments call for the valuation of federal oil, natural gas and coal royalties to reflect the amount of greenhouse gases associated with the use and extraction of fossil fuels, and the costs associated with climate change impacts on public lands and waters. To accomplish this, the comments recommend the social cost of carbon -- the estimated economic damage worldwide associated with one metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions in a given year -- be used to set and appropriate royalty valuation that includes an economic measure of climate impacts from federal fossil fuel leasing.

“Charging a fair and accurate price on federal fossil fuels is essential to ensure that polluting corporations pay the true economic, environmental and social costs of their destruction,” said Friends of the Earth Climate Campaigner Marissa Knodel. “If the Department of Interior incorporated those costs into their leasing decisions, it would become clear that the only safe and responsible thing to do with fossil fuels is to leave them in the ground.”


Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

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