Protect our public lands from fossil fuels

What's At Stake

Through a process called the federal leasing program, the government auctions off the rights to extract natural resources on publicly owned lands or waters to private companies. 

The oil and gas industry has over 26 million acres of land under lease. Over half of those acres are sitting unused — stockpiled by the industry and held in reserve, preventing them from being protected or used for other purposes. 

These fossil fuel leases lock us into decades of dirty energy and climate-heating pollution: 25% of the nation’s total climate emissions come from extracting, transporting, and burning fossil fuels on public land. Oil and gas drilling on public lands results in oil spills and threatens drinking water. Reforming the federal leasing program is crucial to meaningfully address climate change. 

Earthjustice takes the government to court to account for the damage caused by oil, gas, and coal development and for years has been urging the Bureau of Land Management to reform the federal oil and gas lease program. The Biden administration has finally announced a new rule that increases minimum bonding rates, requiring oil and gas companies to take more responsibility for covering the costs of well clean-up, contamination, and remediation, and making it harder for operators with poor safety track records or a pattern of violations to obtain new leases. 

This is a long overdue win for communities and the environment. We welcome these reforms to oil and gas leasing rules, which are the first in decades.  We still need to do more. It’s time to take a hard look at how our fossil fuel decisions will impact the climate and future generations and pursue bolder climate action. 

Tell the Biden administration to align fossil-fuel decisions on public lands and waters with our commitments to tackle climate change. 

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

Delivery to Secretary of the Interior Haaland

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Your Actions Matter

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

You level the playing field.

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

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

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Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue.

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

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

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.

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It’s the law.

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

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 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.