Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 19, 2021


Taylor McKinnon, (801) 300-2414,

Interior Department Announces Federal Coal Review, First Step Toward Ending Federal Leasing Program

WASHINGTON— The Biden administration today announced the launch of a long-overdue formal climate review of the federal coal program. President Biden has paused federal oil and gas leasing pending a climate review of that program.

The Interior Department will be taking public comment on the review until Sept. 20.

“We can’t save life on earth unless we end coal mining, and this is a critical first step,” said Taylor McKinnon, a senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “A scientific review will show that the federal coal leasing program must end. The Biden administration can’t claim to care about the climate emergency and land conservation while auctioning off more public land for filthy coal mines. If Biden officials needed any more evidence, the latest U.N. report makes clear that the world is burning and it’s long past time to stop locking in any new federal fossil fuels.”

Today’s Interior Department action follows years of litigation by conservation groups challenging the Trump administration’s abandonment of a 2016 federal coal leasing moratorium and climate review. In May tribal and environmental groups went to court to challenge the Biden administration’s decision to defend Trump’s policy continuing coal leasing on public lands.

In January, 574 climate, conservation, Indigenous, religious and business groups sent then-President-elect Biden text for a proposed executive order to use the full force of the law to ban new fossil fuel leasing and permitting on federal public lands and waters. In February the Biden administration issued an executive order pausing oil and gas leasing onshore and offshore pending a climate review of federal fossil fuel programs, including coal.

Federal fossil fuel extraction harms people, land and wildlife across the country. Numerous reports and analyses have shown that climate pollution from the world’s already-producing oil, gas and coal developments would push warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius. Those analyses, including one by the International Energy Agency, show that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees requires halting new fossil fuel extraction and investment in new fossil fuel projects, like federal fossil fuel leasing.


Fossil fuel production on public lands causes about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate-policy proposals in recent years.

Oil, gas and coal extraction uses mines, well pads, gas lines, roads and other infrastructure that destroys habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Oil spills and other harms from offshore drilling have done immense damage to ocean wildlife and coastal communities. Fracking and mining also pollute watersheds and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people.

Federal fossil fuels that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution; those already leased to industry contain up to 43 billion tons. Pollution from the world’s already producing oil and gas fields, if they’re fully developed, would push global warming well past 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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