Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Pumpjacks on Lost Hills Oil Field in California.

Pumpjacks on Lost Hills Oil Field in California. (Photo: Arne Hückelheim, Wikimedia Commons)

Coalition Tells Biden White House That Any Further Fossil Fuel Projects 'Incompatible' With Paris Goals

"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."

Andrea Germanos

As the Biden administration conducts a review of the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program, a diverse collection of hundreds of organizations is urging the Interior Department to ensure the assessment is science-driven in order to help "secure a thriving, climate resilient future."

"We encourage Interior to undertake this review in light of a scientific truth: full exploitation of the world's already operating oil and gas fields would push global warming well past 1.5 degrees Celsius. Put simply, any new fossil fuel development, including federal fossil fuel leasing and permitting, is incompatible with the Paris Climate Agreement's scientific warming thresholds—thresholds designed to preserve a livable planet," the groups wrote to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

Their letter (pdf) is dated Wednesday and was drafted by Western Environmental Law Center, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, and Sierra Club. It's backed by roughly 200 groups including Businesses for a Livable Climate, Endangered Species Coalition, and Indigenous Environmental Network.

The letter follows President Joe Biden's order pausing new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters pending a review of the program. An initial analysis with recommendations for the program is expected be released this summer.

Taylor McKinnon, a senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Divbackedersity, said in a statement Wednesday, "Runaway pollution from the federal fossil fuel programs has been worsening climate chaos for decades."

She called for the administration to undertake a "comprehensive review" that includes frontline communities. "This will inevitably show the need for a ban on new leasing," said McKinnon, "and a just, orderly decline of oil and gas extraction on public lands and waters."

In addition to following science, the program review must "openly consider the climate and equity consequences of all reasonable alternatives" like shutting down to all federal fossil fuel leasing, the groups told Haaland.

A handful of recommendations are detailed in the letter, including that the Interior Department conduct a comprehensive review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to determine if greenhouse gas emissions from the federal fossil fuel program align with the administration's climate goal of a 1.5 degree Celsius threshold of warming, a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030, and to near zero by 2040.

Carbon budgeting should be one tool used in the review, which should also take into consideration not just the amount of greenhouse gas emissions but also the social costs like property damage from extreme weather events and adverse agricultural impacts, the groups wrote. Further consideration must be given to whether the program would allow for the protection of 30% of federal lands and waters and support environmental justice.

The groups say the review must also asses the federal fossil fuel program's climate impacts beyond the nation's borders, and look at alternatives to how the federal program can align with the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal by transitioning away from production, use, and export of fossil fuels.

"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, in a statement.

"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," she said.

"This starts," said Ghio, "with permanently halting new leases on public lands and waters."

Eric Huber, managing attorney for Sierra Club's Environmental Law Program, concurred.

"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," he said.

"We cannot afford to close our eyes to the dangers of inaction," Huber said, urging "bold action now to halt new leasing and to diversify economies in ways that allow everyone to benefit."

The groups' letter came the same day Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Keep It in the Ground Act, which would stop new less for coal, oil, gas, oil shale, and tar sands extraction on public lands and in public waters.

"Our public lands and waters belong to all of us—not to fossil fuel executives who want to exploit our health and our kids' future to get rich," declared Merkley. "It’s time to keep citizen-owned fossil fuels in the ground where they can't inflict further harm on all of us."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Infuriating Disappointment': Biden DHS Ramping Up Deportations to Haiti

"It is unconscionable for the Biden administration to resume deportation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters."

Jessica Corbett ·

Architect of Texas Abortion Ban Takes Aim at LGBTQ+ Rights While Urging Reversal of Roe

"Make no mistake, the goal is to force extreme, outdated, religious-driven values on all of us through the courts."

Jessica Corbett ·

Ahead of Canadian Election, Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib Endorse NDP

"Bernie, you have fought courageously for public healthcare, affordable medication, making the rich pay their fair share, and tackling the climate crisis," said party leader Jagmeet Singh. "We're doing the same here."

Jessica Corbett ·

US Urged to End Drone Strikes After Pentagon Says Killing 10 Afghan Civilians Was 'Horrible Mistake'

"That was not a 'mistake,'" said journalist Anand Giridharadas. "War crimes are not oopsies."

Brett Wilkins ·

40+ NYC Activists Arrested for Protests Against Banks Fueling Climate Emergency

"We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo