Coalition Sign On Letter Opposing Biden Offshore Drilling Plan
Background: President Biden through the Department of the Interior just released an offshore drilling plan that would break his promise of no new fossil fuel leasing, further threaten frontline communities, and deepen the climate crisis.
We are calling on him and Interior to issue a 5-Year offshore plan that contains no new leases and phase out existing production.
Addressed to: Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Amanda Lefton
We are writing to urge you to issue an offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program that contains no new leases in any region or planning area. Oil leases exacerbate the climate crisis and deepen our nation’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels. Offshore leasing risks oil spills that harm fisheries and wildlife, and pollutes the air and water of frontline communities.
The science is clear that to meet our national climate goals, you must end new fossil fuel leasing and phase out existing production. Pollution from existing fossil fuel developments already exceed pathways that would limit warming to 1.5°C. Globally, emissions must be reduced by half over the next decade to limit warming to 1.5°C. Past fossil fuel leasing has locked in a dangerous path toward climate catastrophe, and the nation’s energy needs require a rapid shift away from fossil fuels. There is simply no room in the global carbon budget for any new fossil fuel production and infrastructure of any kind anywhere in the world, right now.
In preparing a five-year leasing plan under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Secretary must consider several factors including environmental and social values. The Act “does not mandate any particular balance, but vests the Secretary with discretion to weigh the elements so as to ‘best meet national energy needs.’” There are already nearly 11 million acres of federal waters under lease for oil and gas development; therefore, rather than offering new leases the Secretary should plan a phase out of existing production off California, Alaska, and in the Gulf of Mexico.
The impacts of offshore oil development on our nation’s land, water, wildlife, and health and security of communities — particularly communities of color, which bear a disproportionate burden of pollution and climate disruption — merit strong leadership that will end new leasing. For example, the oil industry has destroyed vast wetlands along the Gulf Coast, leaving communities more vulnerable to flooding and storms fueled by climate change. Offshore oil spills have poisoned and killed fish and wildlife, including lasting damage from the BP oil spill to dolphins, deep sea corals, and sea turtles. Onshore infrastructure associated with offshore leasing sickens and kills people with toxic pollution. Human-caused climate change is inflicting widespread harms on the United States — from sea level rise and flooding, and declining food and water security, to species extinctions and public health threats.
Issuing no new leases is consistent with the OCS Lands Act. In enacting section 18(a) in 1978, Congress acknowledged that the nation would need to shift away from fossil fuels and leasing would “afford us needed time — as much as a generation — within which to develop alternative sources of energy. . . [and] provide time to bring on-line, and improve energy technologies dealing with, solar, geothermal, . . . and other energy forms.” Our environmental and national energy needs have profoundly changed in the seven decades since Congress enacted the OCS Lands Act. Renewable energy technology improvements and cost-effectiveness make them a viable and necessary alternative to fossil fuels that will reduce carbon pollution. Now, in 2022, the administration recognizes that “There is little time left to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory.” It is the nation's policy “to combat the climate crisis to implement a Government-wide approach that reduces climate pollution in every sector of the economy.” The current moment requires halting new offshore oil and gas leasing, while rejecting false solutions like carbon capture and storage and carbon offsets that, along with leasing, lock in dependence on fossil fuels.
For these reasons, we urge the Secretary to offer no new offshore oil and gas leases in the OCS Leasing Program. We further request that the Secretary support a swift and just transition that will improve the wellbeing of communities that have been harmed by our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, prioritizing environmental justice. Doing so would help protect our climate, wildlife, and frontline communities while the administration develops a plan to phase out fossil fuel extraction from federal waters and lands.