Jan 19, 2022
More than 360 climate and rights groups filed a legal petition Thursday that calls on the Biden administration to utilize its executive authority to phase out federal oil and gas production on public lands and oceans.
The groups say the petition offers a lifeline to the planet amid the climate crisis and a direct pathway to reverse President Joe Biden's "catastrophic failure of climate leadership."
"We can't confront the climate crisis unless and until we start keeping fossil fuels in the ground; it's time for the president to acknowledge and take action on this reality."
The petition submitted to Biden and the Interior Department outlines a framework for drawing down oil and gas production by 98% by 2035 through executive action using the statutory provisions of the Mineral Leasing Act, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and the National Emergencies Act.
"The natural place to start phasing out climate-destroying oil and gas production is on our public lands and oceans, and Biden has the authority to do so. If the U.S. leads, the world will follow. Biden must keep his promise to end federal oil and gas extraction," said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).
Citing overwhelming scientific consensus--the petition calls on Biden to immediately cease approval of all new fossil fuel production and phase out nearly all existing fossil fuel production--to avert the most catastrophic consequences of the climate crisis.
Without such action, the groups say it will be "virtually impossible" for the U.S to meet its Paris climate agreement pledge to help limit a global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and will lead to unprecedented social, environmental, public health, and economic damages.
"Right now, fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters [makes] up a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions--at a time scientists are saying we must move urgently to cut emissions by at least half," said Dan Ritzman, director of Sierra Club's Lands, Water, Wildlife program.
The Biden administration "has continued to approve drilling permits onshore at a rate that outpaces the Trump administration, with more than 3,500 permits approved since taking office," said CBD.
The petition takes issue with Biden for leasing millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel extraction days after he called the climate emergency "an existential threat to human existence," at November's COP26 summit in Glasgow.
The petition also cites extreme weather events in the U.S. and around the world as evidence of urgent action,
The climate emergency is here. Nearly every month of 2021 was the hottest in recorded history for the country. It is clear that the limited policy interventions by the Department of the Interior to address climate change have all been woefully inadequate to address the climate calamity unfolding now.
The groups also highlighted the adverse effects of the climate crisis and fossil fuel pollution on Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities.
"Indigenous and underserved communities disproportionately bear the brunt of these impacts that result from long-standing federal policies that have favored industry over public interest," said Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance.
The filing also asserts that "a nationwide federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 280 million tons per year, ranking among the most ambitious U.S. federal climate policy proposals in recent years."
The groups pointed out that during the 2020 presidential election, Biden said, "No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends."
"This petition simply calls on President Biden to exercise the climate leadership he's already promised this country," said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. "We can't confront the climate crisis unless and until we start keeping fossil fuels in the ground; it's time for the president to acknowledge and take action on this reality."
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