Over 360 groups call on Biden to phase out oil and gas drilling on federal lands

By Dan Bacher | 

WASHINGTON— As U.S. oil and gas production is forecasted to expand to record levels by 2023, over 360 climate, tribal, religious and conservation groups petitioned the Biden administration to use its executive authority to phase out oil and gas production on public lands and oceans by 2035.

“The petition provides a framework to manage a decline of oil and gas production to near zero by 2035 through rulemaking, using long-dormant provisions of the Mineral Leasing Act, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the National Emergencies Act,” according to a statement from the coalition. “Without such action, it will become increasingly difficult for the United States to meet its pledge to help avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming and its unprecedented social, environmental and economic damage.”

The petition couldn’t have come at a more critical time for the future of oil and gas drilling in the United States. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that U.S. oil production will average 12.4 million barrels per day during 2023, surpassing the record high for domestic crude oil production set in 2019 under the Trump administration.

In its January Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA forecasts U.S. crude oil production will increase for nine consecutive quarters, from the fourth quarter of 2021 through 2023. EIA also expects OPEC to increase its crude oil production to 28.9 million barrels per day in 2023, up from an average of 26.3 million barrels per day in 2021. 

“We expect global demand for petroleum products to return to and surpass pre-pandemic levels this year, but crude oil production grows at a faster rate in our forecasts,” said EIA Acting Administrator Steve Nalley. “We expect that as crude oil production increases, inventories will begin to replenish and help push prices lower for gasoline, jet fuel, and other products in the short term.”

The agency also forecasts that U.S. commercial crude oil inventories will reach 465 million barrels at the end of 2023, about 11% more than inventories at the end of 2021.

Other key takeaways from the latest STEO include:

  • “By September 2023, EIA expects U.S. natural gas production to reach an average of 98 billion cubic feet per day for the first time and then to average 98.2 billion cubic feet per day the second half of 2023.
  • “U.S. coal consumption increased by 14% in 2021 in response to growing demand for coal-fired electricity. EIA expects U.S. coal consumption to decrease by 2% in 2022 and remain relatively unchanged in 2023. Despite the decrease in consumption, EIA forecasts that coal production will increase 6% in 2022.

The entire Short-Term Energy Outlook is available  on the EIA website

The groups say the legal petition submitted today “offers a way to correct the Biden administration’s collapse of climate leadership, including a failing legislative agenda and Biden’s broken campaign promise to end new oil and gas leasing and drilling on public lands and oceans,”  

The groups noted that analyses show that climate pollution from the world’s already-producing fossil fuel developments, if fully developed, would push warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius, and that avoiding such warming requires ending new investment in fossil fuel projects.

At November’s COP26 summit in Glasgow, Biden called climate change “an existential threat to human existence,” He pledged to cut U.S. emissions by up to 51% over the next nine years.

“Days later the administration offered 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing, and it plans to offer more than 300,000 acres of public lands leases in March,” the groups wrote.

“The Department of the Interior’s review of the federal oil and gas programs effectively ignored climate, calling instead for adjustments to royalties, bids and bonding,” the groups stated. “Meanwhile, the 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.”

Oil and gas drilling opponents say federal fossil fuel production causes nearly a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution, worsening the climate and extinction crises and “disproportionately harming Black, Brown, Indigenous and low-wealth communities.”

Representatives of groups in the coalition commented on the dire need for the phasing out of oil and gas drilling as climate change-fueled disasters including drought, record high air and ocean temperatures and fires rage across the globe

“At this time in history, according to Anishinaabe prophecies, people have a choice between a well-worn, scorched path and one that is new and green,” said Winona LaDuke, executive director for Honor the Earth. “By all measures of science, spirit and humanity, it is incumbent upon you, President Biden and Secretary Haaland, to deliver on your promises to forge that safer path, ending fossil production on public lands and waters. We worked hard to help you gain office, and you abandoned us on Line 3; here is another significant opportunity to do the right thing. Here at White Earth we are celebrating the end of the fossil era, practicing our sustainable traditions and building the new green economy. We welcome you to come see how it's done.”

“This petition offers a lifeline for our planet and a course correction for the Biden administration’s catastrophic failure of climate leadership,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “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.”

“It’s time to open new doors to a thriving, resilient future for our Western U.S. public lands and communities,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “This petition does just that by winding down a cause of the climate crisis: a federal public lands fossil fuels program that serves the interests of oil and gas CEOs and investors, not the public good. We urge the Biden administration to accept the petition and move forward with swift action to protect the climate and public lands.”

“Last year over 132 million Americans experienced a climate-related disaster, with extreme weather costing over $145 billion in damage and leading to more than 688 lives lost,” said Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager at Friends of the Earth. “We cannot fight climate change while ignoring the fact that nearly a quarter of U.S. climate emissions come from fossil fuel extraction on public lands. It's time for President Biden to become the climate leader he claims to be and phase out fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters.”

“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.”

“Fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters must end or it will only intensify the already devastating impacts to our climate and waterways,” said Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “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. It’s time the Biden administration keeps its promises and uses its position of power to be a climate leader that stems the tide of fossil fuel dependence.” 

“Right now, fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters make 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. “Not only does it devastate our planet, it’s a handout to Big Oil at the expense of average Americans, who will bear the brunt of its societal, health, and financial ramifications. We urge the Biden Administration to take advantage of this historic opportunity to make good on campaign promises, fulfill a global commitment to acting on climate, and serve American communities by accepting this petition and phasing out oil and gas production on public lands and oceans."

Newsom Administration has approved nearly 10,000 oil and gas drilling permits since 2019

Meanwhile in California, supposedly the nation’s “green” and “progressive” leader, the Newsom Administration continues to issue thousands of oil and gas drilling permits.

In October 2021, Consumer Watchdog and Fractracker Alliance revealed at www.NewsomWellWatch.org that the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency, CalGEM, had approved a total of 9,728 oil drilling permits from January 1, 2019 until October 1, 2021. In addition, the groups found that the Newsom Administration approved 150 offshore drilling permits in state waters since January 1, 2019.

After spending many hours researching regulatory capture in California for years, I find the expansion of oil and gas drilling in California to be no surprise. The Governor’s Office, the Legislature and the regulatory agencies are captured by Big Oil and  Big Gas from top to bottom.

The California Legislature, under intense pressure from the oil and gas industry and beset with an avalanche of fossil fuel money donations, has failed to pass legislation to create health and safety setbacks around oil and gas wells and impose a moratorium on fracking and other extreme oil drilling operations. The legislators even rejected a bill to protect a “marine protected area,” the Vandenburg State Marine Reserve, from offshore drilling.

Few other examples show just how captured California government is than when the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012 — at the same time that she was lobbying for increased offshore oil drilling in the same region. State officials and a number of “environmental” NGOs gushed that the process overseen by a Big Oil lobbyist was “open, transparent and inclusive” when it was anything but.

List of Petitioners:
Center for Biological Diversity, A Community Voice, Action for the Climate Emergency (ACE), Alaska's Big Village Network, Alianza Americas, Allamakee County Protectors - Education Campaign, Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine, American Federation of Government Employees Local 704, Animals Are Sentient Beings, Inc., Animas Valley Institute, Anthropocene Alliance, Athens County's Future Action Network, Austin Climate Coalition, Baltimore, MD Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter Veterans For Peace, Battle Creek Alliance & Defiance Canyon Raptor Rescue, Bay Area-System Change not Climate Change, Berks Gas Truth, Better Path Coalition, Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE), Biodiversity for a Livable Climate, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Bold Alliance, Breathe Project, Brian Setzler CPA Firm LLC, Bronx Climate Justice North, Bronx Jews for Climate Action, Bucks Environmental Action, CA Businesses for a Livable Climate, Cahaba Riverkeeper, California Democratic Party Environmental Caucus, California Nurses Association, Californians for Western Wilderness, Canton Residents for a Sustain, Canton Residents for a Sustainable, Equitable Future, Cape Downwinders, Carolina Biodiesel, LLC, Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, Catholic Network US, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Center For Ecological Living and Learning (CELL), Center for Environmental Health, Center for International Environmental Law, Central California Environmental Justice Network, Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War, CERBAT: Center for Environmentally Recycled Building Alternatives, Chaco Alliance, Christians For The Mountains, Church women United in New York State, Citizens Climate Lobby, LA West Chapter, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Citizens' Climate Lobby, Columbia County Chapter, Ciudadanos Del Karso, Clean Energy Action, CLEO Institute, Cleveland Owns, Climable.org, Climate Action Now Western Mass., Climate Action Rhode Island – 350, Climate Crisis Policy, Climate Defense Project, Climate Finance Action, Climate First!, Inc., Climate Hawks Vote, Climate Justice Alliance, Climate Reality Project, New Orleans Chapter, ClimateMama, Coalition Against Death Alley, Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline – NJ, Coalition for Outreach, Policy and Education, Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, Common Ground Community Trust, Communities for a Better Environment, Community Church of New York, Community for Sustainable Energy, Community Health, Concerned Health Professionals of New York, Conejo Climate Coalition, Conservation Council For Hawaii, Cooperative Energy Futures, Corvallis Climate Action Alliance, Corvallis Interfaith Climate Justice Committee, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action, DC Environmental Network, Divest LA, Don't Gas the Meadowlands Coalition, Don't Waste Arizona, Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition, Earth Action, Inc., Earth Day Initiative, Earth Ethics, Inc., EARTHDAY.ORG. Earthworks, Eco-Eating, Eco-Justice Collaborative, EcoEquity, Elders Climate Action, Electrify Corvallis, Empower our Future – Colorado, End Climate Silence, Endangered Habitats League, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, Environmental Justice Ministry, Extinction Rebellion Boston, Extinction Rebellion San Francisco Bay Area, Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, First Wednesdays San Leandro, FLOW (For Love of Water), Food & Water Watch, Fossil Free California, Frac Sand Sentinel: Project Outreach, FrackBusters NY, FracTracker Alliance, Franciscan Action Network, FreshWater Accountability Project, Fridays for Future U.S., Friends For Environmental Justice, Friends of the Bitterroot, Friends of the Earth, Fund for Wild Nature, Gas Free Seneca, George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, Georgia Conservation Voters, Global Warming Education Network (GWEN), Global Witness, Golden Egg Permaculture, Grassroots Coalition, Grassroots Environmental Education, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Grays Harbor Audubon Society, Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition, Green America, Green New Deal Virginia, Green Newton Inc., Green River Action Network, Greenbelt Climate Action Network, GreenFaith, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, Heal the Bay, HealthyPlanet, Heartwood, Heirs To Our Oceans, High Country Conservation Advocates, Hilton Head for Peace, Honor the Earth, Howling For Wolves, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, I-70 Citizens Advisory Group, In the Shadow of the Wolf, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, Indigenous Environmental Network, Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend, Indivisible Ambassadors, Indivisible San Jose, inNative - Business Management Consulting, Inspiration of Sedona, Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program, Interfaith EarthKeepers, Interfaith Earthkeepers Eugene/Springfield Oregon, International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute, Jewish Climate Action Network, Justice & Beyond Louisiana, Karankawa Kadla, Kentucky Conservation Committee, Klamath Forest Alliance, KyotoUSA, LaPlaca and Associates LLC, L'eau Est La Vie Camp, Let There Be Light International, Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution. Living Rivers & Colorado Riverkeeper, LLCv, Long Beach Alliance for Clean Energy, Los Padres ForestWatch, Louisiana League of Conscious Voters, Love Wild Horses® 501c3, Lutherans Restoring Creation, Malach Consulting. Maryland Ornithological Society, Mass Peace Action, Massachusetts Forest Watch, Media Alliance, Michigan Interfaith Power & Light, Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Mission Blue, Montana Environmental Information Center, Montbello Neighborhood Improvement Association, Mountain Progressives Frazier Park CA, Movement Rights, Movement Training Network, Nature Coast Conservation, Inc., NC Climate Justice, Ndn Bayou Food Forest, New Energy Economy, New Mexico Climate Justice, New Mexico Environmental Law Center, NJ State Industrial Union Council, North American Climate, Conservation and Environment, North Bronx Racial Justice, North Carolina Council of Churches, North County Earth Action, North Range Concerned Citizens, Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, NY4WHALES, NYC Friends of Clearwater, Oasis Earth, Occupy Bergen County (New Jersey), Ocean Conservation Research, Oceanic Preservation Society, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Oil and Gas Action Network, Oil Change International, Operation HomeCare, Inc., Our Revolution, Our Revolution Massachusetts (ORMA), Partnership for Policy Integrity, PeaceWorks of Greater Brunswick, Peak Plastic Foundation, Pelican Media, People for a Healthy Environment, People's Justice Council/Alabama Interfaith Power and Light, Peoples Climate Movement – NY, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Social Responsibility Arizona, Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania, PlasticFreeRestaurants.org, Port Arthur Community Action Network, Presente.org, Preserve Giles County, Preserve Montgomery County VA, Progressive Democrats of America, Project Coyote, Protect Our Water AZ, Public Citizen, Public Lands Project, Rachel Carson Council, Raptors Are The Solution, RATT Pack, RE Sources, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Renewable Energy Long Island, Resource Renewal Institute, Rio Grande International Study Center, RootsAction, Samuel Lawrence Foundation, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sane Energy Project, Santa Barbara Standing Rock Coalition, Santa Barbara Urban Creeks Council, Santa Cruz Climate Action Network, Santa Fe Forest Coalition, Save Our Illinois Land, Save The Colorado, SAVE THE FROGS!, Save the Pine Bush, SD350, Seaside Sustainability.org, SEE-LA (Social Eco Education-LA), Seeding Sovereignty, Seneca Lake Guardian, Sequoia ForestKeeper®, Sevier Citizens for Clean Air & Water Inc., Sierra Club, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, SoCal 350 Climate Action, Social Justice Commission (Episcopal Diocese of Western MA), Society of Fearless Grandmothers-Santa Barbara, Solar Wind Works, SOMA Action, South Asian Fund For Education Scholarship and Training Inc (SAFEST), South Dakota Chapter of the Sierra Club, South Florida Wildlands Association, Southwest Native Cultures, Spottswoode Winery, Inc., Stand.earth, Stop SPOT & Gulflink, Sunflower Alliance, Sunrise LA, Susanne Moser Research & Consulting, Syracuse Cultural Workers, System Change Not Climate Change, Tennessee Riverkeeper, Terra Advocati, The Climate Mobilization North Jersey, The Consoria, The Earth Bill Network, The Enviro Show, The Green House Connection Center, The Oakland Institute, The People's Justice Council, The Quantum Institute, The Rewilding Institute, The River Project, Tó Nizhóní Ání, Transition Sebastopol, Tualatin Riverkeepers, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Unitarian Universalist Association, Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community, Unite North Metro Denver, United for Action, United For Clean Energy, United University Professions, Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, Upper West Side Recycling, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, UU Fellowship of Corvallis Climate Action Team, V & T Ventures, LLC, Vanderbilt dba Greenvest, Vegan Flag, Verdedenver, Vermont Yankee, Decommissioning Alliance, Veterans For Climate Justice, Volusia Climate Action, Vote Climate, Wall of Women, Wasatch Clean Air Coalition, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, WATCH, INC., Watchdogs of Southeastern PA (WaSEPA), Waterkeeper Alliance, WESPAC Foundation, Inc., West 80s Neighborhood Association, West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs, West Dryden Residents Against the Pipeline, Western Environmental Law Center, Western Nebraska Resources Council, White Rabbit Grove RDNA, Wild Nature Institute, Wild Watershed, WildEarth Guardians, Wilderness Workshop, Women's Earth and Climate Action Network, Women's March Santa Barbara, Womxn from the Mountain, SafeEnergyAnalyst.org, Zero Hour, 198 Methods, 1st United Methodist Church Corvallis OR Environmental Care Team, 350 Butte County, 350 Chicago, 350 Colorado, 350 Conejo / San Fernando Valley, 350 Hawaii, 350 Humboldt, 350 Kishwaukee, 350 Marin, 350 New Hampshire, 350 New Orleans, 350 Pensacola, 350 Seattle, 350 Silicon Valley, 350 Tacoma, 350 Triangle, 7 Directions of Service

Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate policy proposals in recent years.

Oil, gas and coal extraction uses mines, well pads, gas lines, roads and other infrastructure that destroys habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Oil spills and other harms from offshore drilling have done immense damage to ocean wildlife and coastal communities. Fracking and mining also pollute watersheds and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people.

Federal fossil fuels that have not been leased to the industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution; those already leased to industry contain up to 43 billion tons.

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