Federal lands account for about 40 percent of the nation’s coal production, a quarter of oil production and an eighth of gas output. O&G drillers are also sitting on 13 million acres that they’ve already leased but where they are not producing

Warren and Sanders say they will cease fossil fuel leasing on federal lands, but there is a lot in the pipeline – excerpt, April 2019

The Interior Department has said that current coal leases contain enough reserves to support 20 years of production. Oil and gas drillers are also sitting on 13 million acres that they’ve already leased but where they are not producing.

Federal lands account for about 40 percent of the nation’s coal production, a quarter of oil production and an eighth of gas output. The emissions from producing and using those fuels were equal to nearly 20 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas output in 2014.

But while any reversal may take time to be felt, an analysis published last year by researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute in Seattle estimated that a policy like the one Warren is proposing could, by 2030, cut global carbon dioxide emissions by 280 million tons per year, equal to pulling 54 million cars off the road.

Advocates say that leaving as much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground as possible is critical to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.

Trump Stripped Away Previous Leasing Limits

During the Obama administration, federal agencies began to include climate concerns in their reviews of energy projects.

That was part of why Obama rejected the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada’s tar sands, implemented a short-lived moratorium on new coal leasing on federal lands, and placed large parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans off limits to oil and gas drilling.

All of those policies were reversed by the Trump administration. President Donald Trump‘s agencies have stripped away regulations meant to limit methane emissions from oil and gas drilling, opened up new areas in Alaska to drilling and proposed allowing drilling off nearly all of the nation’s coastline. Some of the administration’s moves have been blocked by courts, however, including a ruling last month by a federal judge in Alaska that reinstated the Obama-era ban on drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

Domestic oil and gas production, which increased steadily during the Obama administration, has surged over the past two years. The United States is now the world’s top oil and gas producer, and an increasingly important exporter too.

Could Warren’s Plan Survive a Legal Challenge?

Several of the Democratic candidates for president have condemned Trump’s attempts to expand offshore drilling. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) joined Sanders and Warren in co-sponsoring a 2017 bill that would have halted the issuance of new fossil fuel leases on federal lands, similar to Warren’s new proposal. While those moves could gain supporters, they also could generate more opposition in fossil fuel-producing regions.

Dan Naatz, a spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, issued a statement after Warren’s announcement this week saying that her proposal “would damage our economy and negatively impact job growth in communities across the United States.”

Michael Gerrard, faculty director at Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, said in an email that a Warren administration would have to provide a clear rationale for implementing a ban on new leases, and pointed to the moratorium on coal leasing implemented by the Obama administration as precedent.

As long as her plan met a number of legal requirements, including providing an environmental assessment that justified the moratorium, he said, “it should survive attack in court.”

Climate Plan Also Boosts Renewable Energy

Warren, like many of the candidates, has said she supports the Green New Deal, which would shift the nation rapidly away from fossil fuels while promoting job growth and social justice. She sponsored a bill in the Senate last year that would have required companies to disclose more information about their climate risks and their emissions. On Monday, she also asked the Government Accountability Office to review the risks posed by climate change to defense contractors and the defense supply chain.

Her promise to halt new fossil fuel leasing could set a new benchmark for candidates as they roll out policy platforms in the 2020 campaign.  As part of her plan to boost renewable energy production on federal lands, Warren said she would set a goal of getting 10 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable energy produced offshore or on federally owned land.

“We need our public lands and waters and the fossil fuels they hold to be part of the climate solution and not part of the problem, and that’s the direction her plan points in,” said Sharon Buccino, a senior adviser to the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund. “That doesn’t mean it’s an immediate halt to all drilling going on. But it does mean we’re not continuing to dig our climate hole deeper.”

** April 17, 2019 by Common Dreams Bernie Sanders ‘Raises the Bar Even Further’ on Climate With Vow to Ban Fracking, All New Fossil Fuel Projects “That is exactly the kind of leadership we need if we hope to stop the worst impacts of climate change.” by Jake Johnson, staff writer 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 presidential condender, takes part in a rally on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Bernie Sanders won praise from environmental groups after releasing a climate platform that calls for a complete ban on fracking, a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure, an end to oil exports, and a Green New Deal.

“Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet,” the Vermont senator and 2020 contender wrote on the climate page of his website, which was unveiled this week.

If elected president, Sanders said, his administration will work to:

  • Pass a Green New Deal to save American families money and generate millions of jobs by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels to 100 percent energy efficiency and sustainable energy. A Green New Deal will protect workers and the communities in which they live to ensure a transition to family-sustaining wage, union jobs.
  • Invest in infrastructure and programs to protect the frontline communities most vulnerable to extreme climate impacts like wildfires, sea level rise, drought, floods, and extreme weather like hurricanes.
  • Reduce carbon pollution emissions from our transportation system by building out high-speed passenger rail, electric vehicles, and public transit.
  • Ban fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure and keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground by banning fossil fuel leases on public lands.
  • End exports of coal, natural gas, and crude oil.

Sanders’ climate platform comes just days after fellow 2020 hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) vowed that her administration would ban fossil fuel drilling offshore and on public lands on day one.

Environmentalists celebrated the senators’ bold climate positions and urged other 2020 contenders to follow suit.

“I love this competition!” tweeted David Turnbull, strategic communications director at Oil Change International.

The ACLU’s Phil Aroneanu said Sanders’ call for a total ban on both fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure “raises the bar even further.”

Collin Rees, senior campaigner at Oil Change U.S., said in a statement Tuesday that any presidential candidate who is serious about confronting climate change must be willing to take on the fossil fuel industry.

“That’s why it’s great to see Senator Sanders’ new climate platform hit the industry where it hurts by banning new fossil fuel infrastructure, stopping fracking, banning fossil fuel leases on public lands, and ending polluting exports,” said Rees.

“Along with Senator Warren’s commitment to ban new fossil fuel leases on public lands on day one,” Rees added, “this plan from Senator Sanders means we’re seeing the bar for climate leadership raised to new heights.”

Sanders and Warren unveiled their bold proposals amid a growing push for Democratic presidential candidates to hold a climate-specific debate during the primary process, in an effort to force candidates to detail how they would tackle the ecological crisis.

As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, the U.S. Youth Climate Strike team’s petition demanding a climate debate garnered over 30,000 signatures in just 48 hours.

“With the magnitude of the oncoming climate crisis, it’s no longer sufficient to have a single token environmental question that 2020 candidates get to brush off with a soundbite,” the petition reads. “We need an entire debate on environmental policies.”