President Biden has taken action to stop issuing new leases for natural gas and oil development on federal lands and waters as part of his broader push to tackle climate change and transition to a clean-energy economy.
The president on Wednesday signed an executive order that directs the Department of Interior to suspend new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and offshore waters “to the extent possible.”
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“In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis, we can’t wait any longer,” Biden said Wednesday before signing the order.
The order also kicks off a review of existing leasing and permitting practices related to fossil fuel development to identify steps that can be taken to increase renewable energy production. Oil and gas drilling on tribal land will not be stopped by the order.
The move was applauded by conservationists who say offshore oil and gas drilling poses a significant threat to wildlife, while pollution from burning such fossil fuel leads to worsening global warming and ocean acidification.
“More drilling means more climate pollution that we simply cannot afford,” Diane Hoskins, campaign director at conservation group Oceana, said in a statement.
“President Biden’s actions are a win for the health of our ocean, our economy and our climate. We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration to permanently move away from dirty and dangerous offshore drilling toward clean, renewable energy sources like offshore wind,” Hoskins said.
In an analysis released this week, Oceana said ending new leases could curb more than 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and save $720 billion in damages to people, property and the environment. Drilling on federal lands is responsible for about a quarter of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
But as drilling on federal land and water generated nearly $6 billion in revenue last year, Biden’s order is sure to face legal challenges from the oil and gas industry and western states that depend on the industry.
Top oil and natural gas trade association American Petroleum Institute (API) warned that the suspension of new leases would cost American jobs and make the U.S. more dependent on foreign energy.
“Today’s executive action to halt leasing is a step backwards both for our nation’s economic recovery and environmental progress, threatening to cost thousands of jobs and much-needed revenue while increasing emissions by slowing the transition to cleaner fuels,” Mike Sommers, API president and CEO, said in a statement.
“Limiting domestic energy production is nothing more than an ‘import more oil’ policy that runs counter to our shared goal of emissions reductions and will make it harder for local communities to recover from the pandemic,” Sommers said.
But the White House maintains its climate plans will net millions of jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering and skilled-trades with investments in renewable energy.
“Today’s actions advance those goals and ensure that we are tapping into the talent, grit, and innovation of American workers, revitalizing the U.S. energy sector, conserving our natural resources and leveraging them to help drive our nation toward a clean energy future, creating well-paying jobs with the opportunity to join a union,” the White House said Wednesday.
The order was part of a series of executive actions Biden took Wednesday in an effort to advance the administration’s climate goals. Others included establishing climate change as a national security priority and conserving at least 30 percent of federal land and oceans by 2030.
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