February 4, 2023

Earthjustice, an environmental group, has urged President Joe Biden to halt new drilling and ongoing fossil fuel extraction on federal and offshore territories under US control to accelerate climate action and cut emissions.

Earthjustice said last week that the fossil fuel industry is holding back US climate progress, but the Biden administration can keep America on track. Rebekah BowePublic Affairs and Communications Strategist for the Northwest and Alaska Regional Offices, explained that due to the influence of the fossil fuel industry, the Anti-Inflation Act came with some unexpected setbacks in the text of the law when it revived two offshore oil and gas lease sales Gulf of Mexico and a third in Alaska Cook inlet.

Also, another provision in this energy bill “Trying to hold renewable energy development hostage to the oil industry for the next decade,” by requiring offshore oil and gas lease sales to be held before restarting offshore wind development can win green lights from federal licensing agencies.

Steve MashudaLead Counsel for Earthjustice’s Oceans program, which has challenged Gulf leasehold sales in court, noted: “The legal scrutiny of the IRA shows that it does not bind us to fossil fuel interests to the extent that many might believe. While the IRA is asking for three offshore lease sales, Interior has the responsibility and discretion to make the right decisions here: it should decide, for example, that all leases be linked to measures to protect people and wildlife and limit greenhouse gases, released from the resulting industrial activity.”

Earthjustice claims there is little evidence so far that federal permitting agencies are trying to curb climate pollution, as the Department of the Interior (DOI) has already announced plans for an offshore leasehold sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet by the end of December that will lease even more acres than is required under the IRA.

But the environmental group stressed that offshore leasing is only part of the picture, as as much as 90 percent of public land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management could potentially be offered for lease to the oil and gas industry. “Without special protective measures to protect the climate.”

Mike FreemanSenior Counsel at Earthjustice commented: “When President Biden took office, he called for a major review and overhaul of the federal oil and gas program to combat climate change. Unfortunately he hasn’t made it yet.”

According to Earthjustice, this is why momentum is building for a change in how oil and gas is permitted on public lands, with multiple groups pushing the DOI to do so “Reforming the Antiquated Federal Oil and Gas System” before holding new lease sales.

Additionally, the environmental group stressed that if the federal oil and gas program were to meet the same climate goal — to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels — that Biden had set itself, fossil fuel extraction would need to be significantly reduced did for the rest of the nation.

Source: Earthjustice
Source: Earthjustice

“If we are to move away from even worse droughts, extreme wind events and wildfires, now is the time to switch from fossil fuels to clean energy — not tomorrow, next year, or the next decade. Once the IRA is passed, the practical implications of the Fossil Fuel Act provisions will depend on decisions made by the Biden administration over the next few months.” stressed justice.

In addition, the environmental group said the Biden administration can use its existing authority to reconsider the fossil fuel leasing program to reduce inflation-mitigating legislation “Threat to the climate, or point the law, shrug and return to business-as-usual that fossil fuel interests desperately want.”

During his speech at COP27 on November 11, 2022, President Biden urged: “To bend the emissions curve permanently, every nation has to do something. At this meeting, we must renew and step up our climate ambition.”

As Biden also noted the United States’ efforts to curb methane emissions at the time, he added that the United States will do so “Meet our emissions targets by 2030” thanks to the IRA, Earthjustice has confirmed this “Great progress” carried out, however, several studies have shown that the US will not achieve these goals if it does not “is more committed to reducing climate pollution.”

Since Biden didn’t promise new drilling during his campaign, the environmental group stressed that he was “Now this commitment must and can continue to be enforced.” Even though millions of acres are already leased to oil and gas companies, Earthjustice pointed out “More fossil fuel leasing is on the horizon, opening the floodgates for new oil and gas wells” that could continue to produce for decades.

“Shutting down fossil fuel production is one of Biden’s greatest opportunities to demonstrate global leadership. As of today, a full quarter of US GHG emissions can be attributed to federal fossil fuel support, accounting for a significant portion of our national carbon footprint. When you consider that the US is one of the biggest emitters on the planet, that says a lot.” closed Earthjustice.

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