BEFORE THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND
THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
PETITION TO REDUCE THE RATE OF OIL AND GAS PRODUCTION ON PUBLIC LANDS AND WATERS TO NEAR ZERO BY 2035
January 19, 2022
361 CLIMATE, CONSERVATION, ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, PUBLIC HEALTH, INDIGENOUS, FAITH-BASED, AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS
“No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling including offshore.
No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends.”
-President Joe Biden
Biden-Sanders Debate, March 15, 2020
|The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
|The Honorable Deb Haaland
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240
Dear President Biden and Secretary Haaland,
We hereby petition you to use your inherent authority to implement a steady and managed decline of all onshore and offshore oil and gas production on public lands and waters such that oil and gas production is reduced by 98% of current levels by the year 2035 in order to avoid disastrous climate change driven by fossil fuels.
Decades ago Congress gave the Secretary of the Interior authority to set the “quantity and rate of production” of oil and gas production on public lands under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. Similarly, it gave the President authority, under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953, to set the rate of production for oil and gas production on offshore waters. Using these authorities now to reduce the production of oil and gas is absolutely necessary to address the climate crisis and fully aligns with your “whole of government” directive that every federal agency “avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.”1Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, 86 Fed. Reg. 7,619 (Jan. 27, 2021). These statutory provisions provide you with one of the most powerful tools to address the reckless and profoundly damaging environmental legacy of over 100 years of fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters, and would finally put the public good above the profits of the oil and gas industries.
Implementing this managed decline now is absolutely imperative to finally stem the relentless and ever-increasing production of oil and gas on public lands and waters. Over the past 15 years, production of oil from public lands and waters has inexorably increased 57% to over 937 million barrels per year in 2020 and now accounts for 23% of total oil production in the United States.2Crude Oil Production, Energy Information Administration (June 30, 2021); see also, Office of Natural Resources Revenue (2006 – 2020), https://revenuedata.doi.gov/explore/ (last visited Nov. 29, 2021). Even worse, during the first six months of 2021 alone, the Department of the Interior approved more than 2,100 oil and gas permits to drill, a level of permit approvals not seen since the George W. Bush administration.3Matthew Brown, US drilling approvals increase despite Biden climate pledge, AP (July 12, 2021). If these approvals continue, it will be virtually impossible for the United States to meet its pledge under the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C) and avoid catastrophic damages from the climate emergency.
An overwhelming scientific consensus makes clear that limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C requires governments to halt approval of new fossil fuel production and infrastructure and phase out existing fossil fuel production and infrastructure in developed fields and mines. Already developed oil and gas fields and coal mines contain enough carbon to exceed a 1.5°C limit, meaning that extraction in existing fields and mines must be shut down before their reserves are fully depleted. Globally at least 58% of oil reserves and 59% of gas reserves must be kept in the ground in order even to have a 50-50 chance of meeting a 1.5°C limit. Yet, as detailed in the landmark United Nations Production Gap Reports, fossil fuel producers are planning to extract more than double the amount of oil, gas and coal by 2030 than is consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C,4SEI, IISD, ODI, E3G, and UNEP, The Production Gap: The discrepancy between countries’ planned fossil fuel production and global production levels consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C (2020). with U.S. oil and gas production projected to increase twice as much as any other country.5Ploy Achakulwisut & Peter Erickson, Trends in fossil fuel extraction: Implications for a shared effort to align global fossil fuel production with climate limits, Stockholm Environment Institute Working Paper (April 2021). Instead of increasing extraction, we must make steep reductions in fossil fuel production between 2020 and 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C. The United States has a moral responsibility to lead the world in a rapid managed decline of fossil fuel production based on its role as the historic, dominant driver of the climate crisis, its capacity for a just transition to clean energy, and existing executive authority to accomplish this phaseout of fossil fuels.6Greg Muttitt & Sivan Kartha, Equity, climate justice and fossil fuel extraction: principles for a managed phase out, 20 Climate Policy 1024 (2020).
Four years after the signing of the Paris Agreement, the United Nations starkly warned that global emissions were still sharply higher than what is needed to achieve 2030 interim emission reduction targets.7Emissions Gap Report 2019, United Nations Environment Programme at xviii (2019). The UN report concluded that limiting warming to 1.5°C requires countries to strengthen their climate pledges fivefold to cut emissions by at least 7.6% per year through 2030, concluding that the United States “in particular” must ramp up climate action to meet global climate limits under the Paris Agreement. In 2021 the World Meteorological Organization warned that there is roughly a 40% chance of the average global temperature reaching 1.5°C above preindustrial levels within at least one of the next five years. And in August of this year, the UN secretary-general stated the latest IPCC climate report is a “code red for humanity” and that all countries must “end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil-fuel subsidies into renewable energy.”8Secretary-General Calls Latest IPCC Climate Report ‘Code Red for Humanity’, Stressing ‘Irrefutable’ Evidence of Human Influence, United Nations (Aug. 9, 2021), https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/sgsm20847.doc.htm
The extreme heat waves, hurricanes and megafires wreaking destruction across the United States, the deadly floods in Europe and Asia, record-breaking droughts across Africa and South America, and devastating fires in Australia and the Amazon rainforest just over the past two years provide more unequivocal proof that time has already run out. The climate emergency is here. Nearly every month of 2021 was the hottest in recorded history for the country. It is clear that the limited policy interventions by the Department of the Interior to address climate change have all been woefully inadequate to address the climate calamity unfolding now.
The extraction and burning of fossil fuels from public lands and waters is one of the main drivers of the climate crisis and continues to cause profound environmental injustice and burdens millions of people with debilitating health impacts. People who suffer from unhealthy levels of air pollution caused by fossil fuels are at risk of premature death, lung cancer, asthma attacks and cardiovascular problems, and face increased risks of stillbirths and developmental delays in children. In the United States, the burning of fossil fuels results in increased particulate matter, ground-level ozone, and smog causing over $820 billion per year in health costs.9The Costs of Inaction: The Economic Burden of Fossil Fuels and Climate Change on Health in the United States, Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health at 5 (2021). While these costs are shared by everyone across the United States, affected communities including children, low-wealth communities, and people of color bear a significantly higher burden.
Fortunately, implementing a managed decline of oil and gas on public lands can be accomplished quickly and effectively. First, the fossil fuel industry has already consented to the Department of the Interior’s use of this authority. Every single onshore lease application form already required each company to abide by the inherent authority of the secretary “to alter or modify…the quantity and rate of production under” any lease. Likewise, for all offshore oil and gas operations, every fossil fuel company has already consented in each signed lease to only produce oil and gas only “at rates consistent with any rule or order issued” by the president.10See Appendix.
Second, the oil and gas industry has shown that it can alter its own rate of production when it wants to, as all it has to do is turn off the valves from producing wells — an exercise that occurs regularly every time a climate-change supercharged hurricane hits the Gulf of Mexico. Likewise, when oil and gas demand collapsed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the fossil fuel industry slashed production by 9.7 million barrels per day, the largest decrease in production in history.11OPEC and allies finalize record oil production cut after days of discussion, CNBC (Apr. 12, 2020), https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/12/opec-and-allies-finalize-record-oil-production-cut-after-days-of-discussion.html Likewise, when oil prices fell by over 55% in 2008, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cut production by 1.5 million barrels per day.12Nelson D. Schwartz and Jad Mouawad, OPEC Says It Will Cut Oil Output, N.Y. Times (Oct. 24, 2008). These examples show that the oil and gas industry can easily adjust its rate of production to protect its profits. And it illustrates that industry could be required to steadily ratchet down its production to protect our climate for the public good and the survival of our planet.
During the 2020 presidential election, then-candidate Joe Biden promised “[n]o more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one.”13CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate, CNN (Mar. 15, 2020).
To make substantive progress toward the administration’s vision and U.S. goals under the Paris Agreement, the proposed regulation will implement a controlled phasedown of oil and gas production on public lands. Using 2020 as a baseline, beginning in 2022 the total maximum rates of oil and gas production will decrease by 10% annually for 8 years and then 3% annually for each year thereafter. These reductions will apply across the oil and gas sector, gradually decreasing the maximum production rates for every oil and gas lease on public lands until production is reduced 98% by 2035.
Implementing a managed decline of oil and gas production through control of the rate of production represents the most significant action you could take to protect our climate, protect our wildlife, protect frontline communities, and ensure that the planet remains livable for future generations. This managed decline should be taken in conjunction with other critical policy actions, including permanently ending new federal fossil fuel leasing and ending the approval of new fossil fuel infrastructure projects on all lands managed by the Department of the Interior. These efforts should align with a larger set of actions by the Biden administration to tackle the climate crisis, including declaring a climate emergency, reinstating the crude oil export ban, and limiting gas exports to the full extent allowed by the Natural Gas Act.
Accordingly, pursuant to the right to petition provided in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act,14Our organizations and their members are “interested persons” within the meaning of the APA. 5 U.S.C. § 553(e). we hereby petition you, as Secretary of the Interior,15See 43 C.F.R. § 14.2. to promulgate regulations that (1) establish the maximum production rate and phasedown of existing onshore oil and gas wells under Section 17 of the Mineral Leasing Act and (2) establishes the maximum production rate and phasedown of existing offshore oil and gas wells under Section 107 of the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act.
Additionally, pursuant to Section 5 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the commitments made by the United States under the Paris Agreement and the authority within the National Emergencies Act, we hereby petition you, as the President of the United States, to promulgate an executive order or rule that establish the maximum production rate and phasedown of existing offshore oil and gas wells. For both requests, we petition that any existing regulations under the Mineral Leasing Act, the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act that conflict with the objectives and text of our proposed regulations be rescinded.
Thus, you must take swift and decisive action to implement a managed decline of oil and gas production on public lands and waters. Allowing continued, unchecked extraction of fossil fuels would all but make it impossible to avoid disastrous climate change and to keep global temperature increases well below 1.5°C of warming. We have reached the point that unabated fossil fuel production now presents a clear and present danger to the climate, natural habitats and wildlife across the United States, and is unjustly burdening impacted communities everywhere. With the aforementioned in mind, we respectfully ask that you grant our petition and use your inherent authority to control the rates of oil and gas production in order to save our environment from the disastrous scourge of fossil fuels.
(To read the entire petition click here to download a PDF copy.)
1st United Methodist Church, Corvallis, OR, Environmental Care Team
350 Butte County
350 Conejo / San Fernando Valley
350 New Hampshire
350 New Orleans
350 Silicon Valley
7 Directions of Service
A Community Voice
Action for the Climate Emergency (ACE)
Alaska's Big Village Network
Allamakee County Protectors - Education Campaign
Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine
American Federation of Government Employees Local 704
Animals Are Sentient Beings, Inc.
Animas Valley Institute
Athens County's Future Action Network
Austin Climate Coalition
Baltimore, MD Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter Veterans For Peace
Battle Creek Alliance & Defiance Canyon Raptor Rescue
Bay Area-System Change not Climate Change
Berks Gas Truth
Better Path Coalition
Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE)
Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
Black Warrior Riverkeeper
Brian Setzler CPA Firm LLC
Bronx Climate Justice North
Bronx Jews for Climate Action
Bucks Environmental Action
CA Businesses for a Livable Climate
California Democratic Party Environmental Caucus
California Nurses Association
Californians for Western Wilderness
Canton Residents for a Sustainable, Equitable Future
Carolina Biodiesel, LLC
Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas
Catholic Network US
Center for Biological Diversity
Center For Ecological Living and Learning (CELL)
Center for Environmental Health
Center for International Environmental Law
Central California Environmental Justice Network
Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War
CERBAT: Center for Environmentally Recycled Building Alternatives
Christians For The Mountains
Church women United in New York State
Citizens Climate Lobby, LA West Chapter
Citizens for a Healthy Community
Citizens' Climate Lobby, Columbia County Chapter
Ciudadanos Del Karso
Clean Energy Action
Climate Action Alliance
Climate Action Now Western Mass.
ClImate Action Rhode Island – 350
Climate Crisis Policy
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Climate Hawks Vote
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Coalition Against Death Alley
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Common Ground Community Trust
Communities for a Better Environment
Community Church of New York
Community for Sustainable Energy
Concerned Health Professionals of New York
Conejo Climate Coalition
Conservation Council For Hawaii
Cooperative Energy Futures Corvallis
Cottonwood Environmental Law Center
Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action
DC Environmental Network
Don't Gas the Meadowlands Coalition
Don't Waste Arizona
Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition
Earth Action, Inc.
Earth Day Initiative
Earth Ethics, Inc.
Eco-Justice Collaborative EcoEquity
Elders Climate Action Electrify Corvallis
Empower our Future - Colorado End Climate Silence
Endangered Habitats League
Environmental Action Committee of West Marin
Environmental Justice Ministry
Extinction Rebellion Boston
Extinction Rebellion San Francisco Bay Area
Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition
First Wednesdays San Leandro FLOW (For Love of Water)
Food & Water Watch
Fossil Free California
Frac Sand Sentinel: Project Outreach
Franciscan Action Network
FreshWater Accountability Project
Fridays for Future U.S.
Friends For Environmental Justice
Friends of the Bitterroot
Friends of the Earth
Fund for Wild Nature Gas Free Seneca
George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication
Georgia Conservation Voters
Global Warming Education Network (GWEN)
Golden Egg Permaculture
Grassroots Environmental Education
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Grays Harbor Audubon Society
Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association
Great Old Broads for Wilderness
Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition
Green New Deal Virginia
Green Newton Inc
Green River Action Network
Greenbelt Climate Action Network
Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy
Heal the Bay
Heirs To Our Oceans
High Country Conservation Advocates
Hilton Head for Peace
Honor the Earth Howling For Wolves
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
I-70 Citizens Advisory Group
In the Shadow of the Wolf
Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition
Indigenous Environmental Network
Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend
Indivisible San Jose
inNative - Business Management Consulting
Inspiration of Sedona
Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program
Institute Jewish Climate Action Network
Interfaith Earthkeepers Eugene/Springfield Oregon
International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island
Justice & Beyond Louisiana
Kentucky Conservation Committee
Klamath Forest Alliance
L'eau Est La Vie Camp
LaPlaca and Associates LLC
Let There Be Light International
Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution
Living Rivers & Colorado Riverkeeper
Long Beach Alliance for Clean Energy
Los Padres ForestWatch
Louisiana League of Conscious Voters
Love Wild Horses® 501c3
Lutherans Restoring Creation
Maryland Ornithological Society
Mass Peace Action
Massachusetts Forest Watch
Michigan Interfaith Power & Light
Montana Environmental Information Center
Montbello Neighborhood Improvement Association
Mountain Progressives Frazier Park CA
Movement Training Network
Nature Coast Conservation, Inc
NC Climate Justice
Ndn Bayou Food Forest
New Energy Economy
New Mexico Climate Justice
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NJ State Industrial Union Council
North American Climate, Conservation and Environment
North Bronx Racial Justice
North Carolina Council of Churches
North County Earth Action
North Range Concerned Citizens
Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council
NYC Friends of Clearwater
Occupy Bergen County (New Jersey)
Ocean Conservation Research
Oceanic Preservation Society
Oil and Gas Action Network
Oil Change International
Operation HomeCare, Inc.
Our Revolution Massachusetts (ORMA)
Partnership for Policy Integrity
PeaceWorks of Greater Brunswick
Peak Plastic Foundation
People for a Healthy Environment
People's Justice Council/Alabama Interfaith Power and Light
Peoples Climate Movement - NY
Physicians for Social Responsibility
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Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania
Port Arthur Community Action Network
Preserve Giles County
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Progressive Democrats of America
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Public Lands Project
Rachel Carson Council
Raptors Are The Solution
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Renewable Energy Long Island
Resource Renewal Institute
Rio Grande International Study Center
Samuel Lawrence Foundation
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San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility
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Santa Barbara Standing Rock Coalition
Santa Barbara Urban Creeks Council
Santa Cruz Climate Action Network
Santa Fe Forest Coalition
Save Our Illinois Land
Save The Colorado
SAVE THE FROGS!
Save the Pine Bush
SEE-LA (Social Eco Education-LA)
Seneca Lake Guardian
Sevier Citizens for Clean Air & Water Inc.
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team
Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
SoCal 350 Climate Action
Social Justice Commission (Episcopal Diocese of Western MA)
Society of Fearless Grandmothers-Santa Barbara
Solar Wind Works
South Asian Fund For Education Scholarship and Training Inc (SAFEST)
South Dakota Chapter of the Sierra Club
South Florida Wildlands Association
Southwest Native Cultures
Spottswoode Winery, Inc.
Stop SPOT & Gulflink
Sunflower Alliance Sunrise LA
Susanne Moser Research & Consulting
Syracuse Cultural Workers
System Change Not Climate Change
The Climate Mobilization North Jersey
The Earth Bill Network
The Enviro Show
The Green House Connection Center
The Oakland Institute
The People's Justice Council
The Quantum Institute
The Rewilding Institute
The River Project
To Nizhoni Ani
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community
Unite North Metro Denver
United for Action
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United University Professions
Upper Gila Watershed Alliance
Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition
Upper West Side Recycling
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment
UU Fellowship of Corvallis Climate Action Team
V & T Ventures, LLC
Vanderbilt dba/ Greenvest Vegan Flag
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Veterans For Climate Justice
Volusia Climate Action
Wall of Women
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Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
Watchdogs of Southeastern PA (WaSEPA)
WESPAC Foundation, Inc.
West 80s Neighborhood Association
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Wild Nature Institute
Women's Earth and Climate Action Network
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Womxn from the Mountain
- 1Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, 86 Fed. Reg. 7,619 (Jan. 27, 2021).
- 2Crude Oil Production, Energy Information Administration (June 30, 2021); see also, Office of Natural Resources Revenue (2006 – 2020), https://revenuedata.doi.gov/explore/ (last visited Nov. 29, 2021).
- 3Matthew Brown, US drilling approvals increase despite Biden climate pledge, AP (July 12, 2021).
- 4SEI, IISD, ODI, E3G, and UNEP, The Production Gap: The discrepancy between countries’ planned fossil fuel production and global production levels consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C (2020).
- 5Ploy Achakulwisut & Peter Erickson, Trends in fossil fuel extraction: Implications for a shared effort to align global fossil fuel production with climate limits, Stockholm Environment Institute Working Paper (April 2021).
- 6Greg Muttitt & Sivan Kartha, Equity, climate justice and fossil fuel extraction: principles for a managed phase out, 20 Climate Policy 1024 (2020).
- 7Emissions Gap Report 2019, United Nations Environment Programme at xviii (2019).
- 8Secretary-General Calls Latest IPCC Climate Report ‘Code Red for Humanity’, Stressing ‘Irrefutable’ Evidence of Human Influence, United Nations (Aug. 9, 2021), https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/sgsm20847.doc.htm
- 9The Costs of Inaction: The Economic Burden of Fossil Fuels and Climate Change on Health in the United States, Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health at 5 (2021).
- 10See Appendix.
- 11OPEC and allies finalize record oil production cut after days of discussion, CNBC (Apr. 12, 2020), https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/12/opec-and-allies-finalize-record-oil-production-cut-after-days-of-discussion.html
- 12Nelson D. Schwartz and Jad Mouawad, OPEC Says It Will Cut Oil Output, N.Y. Times (Oct. 24, 2008).
- 13CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate, CNN (Mar. 15, 2020).
- 14Our organizations and their members are “interested persons” within the meaning of the APA. 5 U.S.C. § 553(e).
- 15See 43 C.F.R. § 14.2.