In the Face of Climate Crisis, BLM Urged to Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground
DENVER—(ENEWSPF)–December 15, 2015. The Center for Biological Diversity on Monday filed a formal administrative protest challenging a Bureau of Land Management decision to auction 4,900 acres of public land in southwestern Colorado for fracking. The auction was proposed from the agency’s Tres Rios Field Office. On the same day, the Center filed formal administrative comments opposing a draft Bureau of Land Management plan to auction more than 800 acres of public land in the Little Snake Field Office in northwestern Colorado for fracking.
“If President Obama wants to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as he agreed to do in Paris, he needs to end the federal fossil fuel leasing program,” said the Center’s Taylor McKinnon. “Each new auction undermines that goal with more climate pollution while destroying public land and harming air, water and habitat for imperiled species.”
Both Center filings call on the Bureau and the Obama administration to cancel the fossil fuel auctions and “keep it in the ground.” A study by EcoShift consulting earlier this year indicates that the potential greenhouse gas pollution from unleased federal fossil fuels is incompatible with any U.S. share of global carbon budgets to keep warming below 2 or 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal world leaders agreed to in the Paris climate pact.
Avoiding dangerous warming requires leaving the vast majority of already proved fossil fuels undeveloped. By opening new fossil fuel deposits — which should be considered “unburnable” in the context of global carbon budgets — federal fossil fuel auctions perpetuate a conflict between the Obama administration’s climate goals and its “all of the above” energy policy.
Facing growing public support for the “Keep It in the Ground” movement to end new leases of federal oil, gas and coal, federal officials in November halted an oil and gas auction in Utah and another auction scheduled for earlier this month in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of people have turned out to protest fossil fuel lease sales this fall in Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado and Alaska.
More than 400 organizations and leaders working on the “Keep It in the Ground” campaign called on President Obama to end new federal fossil fuel leases following reports that doing so would keep up to 450 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution in the ground, and that the president has the legal authority to do so now, without Congress. Those emissions would be incompatible with any reasonable U.S. share of global carbon budgets to avoid catastrophic warming.
The American public owns nearly 650 million acres of federal public land, and more than 1.7 billion acres of Outer Continental Shelf — and the fossil fuels beneath them. This includes federal public lands like national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges that make up about a third of the U.S. land area — and oceans like Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard. These places and fossil fuels are held in trust for the public by the federal government; federal fossil fuel leasing is administered by the Department of the Interior.
Over the past decade, the combustion of federal fossil fuels has resulted in nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. An August report by EcoShift consulting, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, found that remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that has not been leased to industry contains up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.
As of earlier this year, 67 million acres federal fossil fuel were already leased to industry, an area more than 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.
The potential greenhouse gas emissions of unleased federal fossil fuels — including unleased oil and gas in Colorado — is incompatible with any U.S. share of global carbon limits to avoid dangerous warming. By ending new leasing, the president can remove up to 450 billion tons from the global pool of potential greenhouse gas emissions.
Download the September “Keep It in the Ground” letter to Obama here.
Download Grounded: The President’s Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground here (this report details the legal authorities with which a president can halt new federal fossil fuel leases).
Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels here (this report quantifies the volume and potential greenhouse gas emissions of remaining federal fossil fuels).
Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet here.