For Immediate Release, December 17, 2019


Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

Grijalva Bill Would Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Public Lands

Bill Would Pause New Fossil Fuel Leasing, Tie Future Fossil Fuel Permits to Carbon Sequestration

WASHINGTON— House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) introduced legislation today that attempts to set an overall cap on greenhouse gas emissions from public lands and seeks to achieve “net zero” emissions from public lands by 2040.

The legislation would temporarily pause all new fossil fuel leasing on public lands until the Department of the Interior develops a comprehensive strategy to achieve “net zero” emissions on these lands. If interim benchmarks for greenhouse gas emissions reductions are not met by 2025, fossil fuel leasing, as well as drilling and other permits to develop fossil fuels on existing leases, would be curtailed until the bill’s targets were achieved.

Unfortunately the legislation fails to permanently end new fossil fuel leasing. Such leasing would be allowed to continue even beyond 2040 if emissions resulting from federal lands fossil fuel use were sufficiently offset by carbon capture and sequestration, forest regrowth and other land-use changes, or by the deployment of large-scale renewable energy facilities on public lands.

“Putting a stop to all new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters is a vital first step in stopping the climate crisis, and it’s heartening to see Chairman Grijalva propose a framework that could ultimately achieve that,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But much more is needed to undo the incredible damage the Trump administration has caused through its massive increase in fossil fuel leasing, to say nothing of the decades of reckless fossil fuel leasing that has already occurred.”

The United Nations Environment Program issued a report in November showing that world governments plan to produce 120% more fossil fuels by 2030 than is consistent with avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. Over the past three years, the Trump administration has dramatically ramped up fossil fuel leasing, including selling onshore oil and gas leases on 3.9 million acres of public lands that contain the potential for 1.2 billion tons of climate pollution (CO2e). In total more than 38,000 existing leases, covering over 25 million acres, produce over a billion tons of carbon pollution each year and hold the potential to unleash many billions more over the coming decades.

“The planet’s carbon budget can’t afford full development on existing leases, much less any new ones,” said Hartl. “While Rep. Grijalva’s bill acknowledges the need to draw down existing fossil fuel production, it doesn’t use all the tools available, to either Congress or the president, to do so.”

In January 2019 more than 600 groups called on Congress to implement a thoughtful phaseout of existing fossil fuel production, including a complete phaseout of fossil fuels on public lands. The groups also sought a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2035 and a just transition to a new green economy.

On Monday more than 500 groups called on the next U.S. president to take bold executive action to confront the climate crisis. Included in this plan for action is for the next president to work with federal agencies, states and Congress to phase out all U.S. fossil fuel extraction over the next few decades. Central to this plan is an immediate and complete halt to new fossil fuel leasing on public lands, a position endorsed by multiple presidential candidates and possible under existing law.

“Given the urgency of the climate crisis and the immoral harm that we continue to inflict on our most vulnerable communities, as well as our public lands and wildlife, there’s simply no future for continued public lands fossil fuel leasing or development,” said Hartl. “This bill is a step toward that end, but far more can and must be done.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.