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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 federal government leases vast swathes of public lands and waters 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 federal oil, gas, and coal leasing program is broken, and reforming it is crucial to meaningfully address climate change.

The fossil fuel industry leases our public lands from the government at an incredibly low rate – sometimes for less than the cost of a cup of coffee per acre and the federal royalty rate has not been updated since 1920. These paltry amounts do not include costs associated with climate damage and clean-up after fossil fuel companies finish drilling. Companies are often allowed to walk away from the mess they create and leave taxpayers on the hook to pay for clean-up.

We can’t be fooled by false, quick solutions from the fossil fuel industry. New leasing does nothing to help Americans at the gas pumps or lower energy prices nor will it lead to energy independence, it only guarantees more profit for the oil, gas, and coal industry.

Coal leases lead to mines that foul the air, pollute streams, and destroy wildlife habitats on public land that can put its workers in harm’s way. Oil and gas leases have left toxic legacies of offshore and coastal oil spills and pollution from abandoned and orphaned wells that continue to pollute our water, lands, and air years after they’ve been tapped out. Building more fossil fuel infrastructure will just lock in decades of pollution when we should be building a clean energy future that we can achieve.

We need to turn our public lands from being part of the climate problem into being part of the solution. We need advocates like you to let the Biden administration know it’s time our public lands, coasts, and waters benefit people and local communities, not just corporate polluters.

The Biden administration has committed to tackling the climate crisis, and we need to help turn these words into action. Instead of expanding harmful drilling, we must meet this once-in-a-lifetime moment to protect our public lands and waters and move away from our reliance on fossil fuels.

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.