Energy & Environment

Environmental groups: Biden administration has legal authority to end oil and gas leasing on public land

A coalition of more than 300 environmental and tribal organizations on Wednesday issued a petition calling on the Biden administration to fully phase out oil and gas production on federal land by 2035.

In the petition, participating organizations argued the administration has the legal authority to phase out such activity. The framework they offer argues that the oil and gas industry has already acknowledged the Interior Department’s authority in the matter through the language in the leases they sign.

Similarly, the petition notes, “for all offshore oil and gas operations, every fossil fuel company has already consented in each signed lease to only produce oil and gas only ‘at rates consistent with any rule or order issued’ by the president.”

It goes on to argue that the industry has already demonstrated its capacity to alter its rate of production at will, as demonstrated by the practice of turning off valves amid Gulf hurricanes, as well as reduced production during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The phaseout outlined in the petition calls for a 10 percent annual decline in production over eight years, beginning in 2022, followed by a 3 percent reduction for each year after.

Petitioners include the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, the Western Environmental Law Center and Honor the Earth.

The petitioners fault the administration for allowing leases to resume after a court struck down Biden’s order pausing leasing on federal lands and waters.

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

Asked if the petitioners would consider filing a lawsuit to compel the administration to take such action, McKinnon told The Hill, “If the administration fails to timely respond to the petition, that is a possibility. That would be a discussion we’d have co-petitioners down the road.”

“That said, this is something Biden can and therefore should do now,” he added.

Tags Center for Biological Diversity Department of the Interior Friends of the Earth Honor the Earth Interior Department Oil and gas industry oil and gas production Sierra Club Western Environmental Law Center
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