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A Huge Amount of Fossil Fuel Drilling Happens on Public Lands and Waters. Biden Is Taking Steps to Change That.

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In recent years, the federal government has handed over vast swathes of public lands and waters to private corporations to drill for oil, mine for coal, and otherwise exploit. 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 all Americans.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of fueling the climate crisis and the extinction boom, public lands and waters can be part of the solution. During his first week in office, President Biden took two steps toward making it so. One move protects most of the Arctic Ocean and some important Atlantic Ocean canyons from drilling; the other puts a pause on new oil and gas leasing across all public lands and waters.

Read on to learn how these actions will help and what steps the Biden administration must take next.

Massive drilling on our public lands and waters is incompatible with a healthy future for our planet.

The Biden administration is headed in the right direction.

  • President Biden signed an executive order reversing President Trump’s efforts to expand and deregulate offshore drilling and affirming that most of the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic canyons are permanently closed to drilling.
  • President Biden directed the Department of Interior to pause new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters while the administration reviews the federal oil and gas program.
  • The Trump administration scheduled an offshore drilling lease sale for March 17. Biden’s executive order freezes the sale.

Here’s how the Biden administration should move forward.

  • Immediately reinstate President Obama’s coal leasing moratorium. Burning coal mined from public lands contributes an estimated 10% of U.S. emissions.
  • Strengthen health, safety, and environmental protections, such as regulations that limit the amount of methane — a cimate super-pollutant — that oil-and-gas operations can release into the air.
  • Work with Congress to close legal loopholes and ensure a fair return to taxpayers by increasing the amount that private corporations pay to lease these lands.
  • Reject projects that harm communities and increase demand for fossil fuels, including the Dakota Access Pipeline.

You can help! Call on the Biden administration to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2021. (Rob Carr / Getty Images)