WASHINGTON— More than 350 conservation and community groups, representing millions of people, called on President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer today to reject fossil fuel expansion during negotiations over a reconciliation package.
The groups also urged Biden to use the full suite of his executive authority to stop issuing federal fossil fuel leases and deny permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure, and to declare a climate emergency, which would unlock powerful tools to combat the climate crisis.
“Permitting new fossil fuel projects will further entrench us in a fossil fuel economy for decades to come — and constitutes a violent betrayal of your pledge to combat environmental racism and destruction,” the groups’ letter said. “New fossil fuel projects will also lock workers into a dying industry and delay the growth in sectors that will support jobs of the future.”
Two provisions buried in the Inflation Reduction Act would require massive oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, reinstate an illegal 2021 Gulf lease sale and mandate that millions more acres of public lands be offered for leasing before any new solar or wind energy projects could be built on public lands or waters. These leasing provisions lock in decades of additional fossil fuel pollution and continue a racist legacy of sacrificing environmental justice communities.
Greenlighting new fossil fuel extraction is incompatible with climate science and the administration’s climate goals. The science is clear that the president cannot approve any new fossil fuel leases and still stay within the U.S. carbon budget for keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Communities at the front lines of the climate emergency are already dealing with and dying from ever-worsening fires, hurricanes, flooding, heat waves and drought. A recent analysis showed that more than 40% of Americans lived in areas hit by climate disasters last year, a number that would grow if the fossil fuel-friendly provisions in the IRA become law.
Letter signers, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Justice Alliance, Food & Water Watch, Greenpeace USA, Indigenous Environmental Network, Our Revolution and Sunrise Movement, are urging Democratic leaders to reject fossil fuel expansion and stand with the communities that voted them into office.
“Here in Appalachia, we refuse to be sacrificed for political gain or used as concessions to the fossil fuel industry in this so-called deal. The Biden administration must step up to end the fossil fuel era by declaring a climate emergency and stopping approval of fossil fuel projects. The unnecessary fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline and further drilling in Alaska and the Gulf are not foregone conclusions. There's no effective climate legislation that allows for new fossil fuel infrastructure, period. We will continue protecting Appalachia, our communities and our water, no matter what.” said Grace Tuttle of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition.
“With climate scientists reporting a code red for humanity in the recent IPCC report, we do not have time to continue catering to Big Oil, as Manchin has decided is his choice to make,” said Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic. “Our communities have been sacrifice zones for the last few decades in Alaska, bringing pollution, diseases, illnesses and harm to our traditional ways of life. Generations of frontline leaders in Alaska have spoken out and tried to bring this narrative into mainstream media and awareness. Now the climate crisis is in the backyard of the elite and cannot be ignored any longer. We demand a just transition from fossil fuels. This is not a new or radical idea, but one that has, as Biden stated, been ignored for too long.”
“Frontline communities in the Gulf South, Alaska, and Appalachia refuse to be sold out,” said Kendall Dix, national policy director at Taproot Earth. “For too long, Black, Indigenous, people of color, poor and rural communities have borne the brunt of the climate crisis. A just transition starts with a halt to new offshore drilling on public lands and waters, and solutions and investments that emerge from those directly and most immediately impacted.”
“This compromise uses people as pawns in a high-stakes political gamble involving our lives, health and the climate,” said John Beard, founder and CEO of Port Arthur Community Action Network. “Such ‘wheeler dealer’ antics have failed in the past and will again. We need the Biden administration to act NOW and stop sacrificing people for profit. We refuse to be sacrificed. We will not be cowed nor silent. We need significant climate action NOW from the Biden administration to avoid a climate catastrophe.”
“I refuse to compromise any of our ancestral tribal values and principles toward any colonized ideals of settler mentality,” said Juan B. Mancias, tribal chair, Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. “For 500 years they’ve been removing resources from the Earth and from the land that belongs to the Original People of this land to export overseas. First it was gold and silver, now it’s fossil fuels, uranium, coal and everything else. I would like to make sure we’re not compromising any more principles of our people to make a colonized settler mentality comfortable.”
“We can’t let the renewable energy transition be held hostage by fossil fuel companies,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Manchin bill is a devil’s bargain that ignores science and locks us into at least a decade of new oil and gas extraction. There’s a way forward that doesn’t spew more greenhouse gas pollution into the air and harm frontline communities, and it means eliminating these giveaways to the fossil-fuel industry.”
“This bill should not be considered a climate victory,” said Jim Walsh, policy director for Food & Water Watch. “Locking in more drilling and fracking on public lands and waters, billions in subsidies for the myth of carbon capture, and fast-tracking permit approvals for gas pipelines and exports are exactly the policies fueling the climate crisis and harming public health with increasing pollution in our air and water. Lawmakers who support real climate solutions should reject this deal until the fossil fuel handouts are removed.”
“The Inflation Reduction Act may be the most Washington can offer right now, but it’s a far cry from what’s actually needed to address the climate crisis,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “The investments in renewables, energy efficiency and Superfund clean-ups will make a difference, but communities and the climate continue to be sacrificed to Sen. Manchin’s fossil fuel demands.”
An Oil Change International analysis shows that developing existing fossil fuel reserves would make it impossible to avoid global warming over 1.5 degrees Celsius, and that we must keep nearly 40% of reserves in the ground to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
New fossil fuel infrastructure and leases will not bring American consumers any relief at the gas pump. It takes years to build, and the fossil fuel industry already has enough fossil fuel supply to last decades, long past when we must transition away from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy.
In January a federal judge overturned the 80 million-acre Gulf of Mexico lease sale because Interior failed to address the climate harms from developing the leases. The IRA would reinstate this sale.
The People vs Fossil Fuels Coalition has long urged the president to use his executive authority to stop approving fossil fuel projects, including pipelines and fossil fuel leases, and declare a climate emergency.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus in March urged the president to ban new federal fossil fuel leasing and declare a climate emergency.