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Protect our public lands and waters from fossil fuels

Delivery to the Department of the Interior

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What’s At Stake

The public land and waters of this country when undeveloped are places that provide refuge and habitat for wildlife, form natural resistance to climate change, and help maintain clean water and clear air that all of us rely on. Further, these lands are the ancestral homes and provide spiritual and cultural significance to many Native American and indigenous people and they provide respite for many seeking solace in the wilderness. However, vast swaths of public lands and waters have been opened up to private corporations to drill for oil and gas and to mine for coal. As a result, nearly 25% of climate-cooking emissions from the United States come from fossil fuels pumped or mined from lands and waters that belong to the public. It doesn’t have to be this way. The Biden administration has committed to tackling the climate crisis, and we need to help turn these words into action.

During his first week in office, President Biden directed the Department of the Interior to put a pause on oil and gas leasing across all public lands and waters while the administration conducts a comprehensive review of the nation’s federal fossil fuel program.

Encourage the Department of the Interior to follow through on its commitments to address the climate crisis and advance environmental justice by embracing solutions and reforms that benefit people and communities over corporate polluters.

This will be the first time the government has ever done a comprehensive review of the climate and other environmental impacts from oil and gas development on federal lands and waters. Doing so is essential to begin to reform the federal fossil fuel program.

Oil and gas pollution disproportionately harms low-income communities. Air pollution from oil and gas extraction causes public health harms, and long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with higher COVID-19 mortality rates. A pause on oil and gas leasing and re-evaluation of the entire leasing program is a step toward addressing the disproportionate harms on these front-line communities.

We as a country cannot stand up and say we are doing something about the climate and the biodiversity crisis while our public lands are responsible for a quarter of all U.S. emissions from fossil fuel extraction and burning. Tell the Biden administration that we must do all we can to fix the broken federal oil and gas leasing and permitting program.

Oil drilling operations in Kern County, Calif.
Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

Oil drilling operations in Kern County, Calif.

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

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You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.