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Environmental groups: The Biden administration has the legal authority to stop oil and gas leasing on public lands

Environmental groups: The Biden administration has the legal authority to stop oil and gas leasing on public lands

A coalition of more 300 environmental and tribal organizations issued Wednesday a legal petition asking the Biden administration for a complete phasing out of oil and gas production on federal soil by 2035.

Participants from the petition argued that the administration has legal authority to stop such activity. They argue that the oil-and-gas industry has already acknowledged the authority of the Interior Departments in the matter through the language in their leases.

The petition also notes that for all offshore oil-and-gas operations, every fossil fuel company has already agreed in each signed lease to produce oil and natural gas at rates consistent with any rule issued by the president.

It continues to argue that the industry has already shown its ability to alter its production rate at will, as evidenced by the practice to shut off valves during Gulf hurricanes and the reduction in production during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The petition calls for a 10% annual decrease in production over eight years. This will begin in 2022. Each year thereafter, there will be a 3% reduction.

Petitioners include the Center for Biological Diversity (Friends of the Earth), the Sierra Club, the Western Environmental Law Center, and Honor the Earth.

The administration was blamed by the petitioners for allowing leases resume after a court revoked Biden’s order preventing leasing on federal lands or waters.

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The petition is a lifeline for the planet and a course correction for Biden’s disastrous failure to lead on climate change, Taylor McKinnon from the Center for Biological Diversity stated in a statement. Our public lands and oceans are the best places to begin phasing out climate-degrading oil and gas production, and Biden has the authority. The world will follow the U.S. example. Biden must fulfill his promise to end federal oil- and gas extraction.

McKinnon said that if the administration fails to respond to the petition within the time limit, it is possible to file a lawsuit. We would have a discussion with co-petitioners.

He said that Biden could and should do this, however.

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