Hundreds of organizations on Wednesday filed a legal petition (pdf) calling on the Obama administration to declare a "national climate emergency" and end all U.S. crude oil exports, which they say would keep millions of tons of greenhouse gas pollution from entering the atmosphere.
The petition comes as the U.S. nears a signing date for the COP21 climate agreement agreed to late last year in Paris.
Less than a week after pledging to lower greenhouse gas emissions, President Barack Obama in December also signed the omnibus spending and taxation bill that lifted a 40-year-old export ban on crude oil.
Environmental advocacy groups Center for Biological Diversity and Food and Water Watch, who organized the petition, stated:
As global temperatures hit record highs, the petition points out that “climate change is unquestionably a national emergency.” It also notes that halting crude exports is essential to the Paris Agreement’s goal “to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.”
And the U.S. Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill known as the Energy Policy Modernization Act that included, among other things, "expedited review" of natural gas exports.
"This is a most pernicious form of climate denial," said Friends of the Earth climate and energy program director Benjamin Schreiber. "Expediting approval of liquefied natural gas terminals will increase fracking and poison communities. Even as the American people are mobilizing to demand fossil fuels stay in the ground, the U.S. Senate is listening to Big Oil and helping to send them overseas."
Jean Su of the Center for Biological Diversity added, "President Obama must halt crude exports to give us a fighting chance to meet the Paris Agreement's crucial climate goals."
"The president has the legal authority to reverse the terrible mistake he made in approving the end to the longstanding ban on crude exports," Su said.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, another signatory to the petition, added, "While Americans are increasingly turning against fracking and fossil fuels, President Obama has shockingly seen fit to double down on oil extraction to facilitate needless exports."
"But the president has a chance to make this right by acknowledging our emerging climate emergency and halting oil exports now. He must seize this opportunity," Hauter said.
In addition to climate damage, the petition notes the public health risks associated with fossil fuel extraction activities like fracking, which is linked to contaminated water supplies throughout the country.