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Huffman, Merkley Lead Charge to Get the Federal Government out of the Fossil Fuel Business

Keep it in the Ground Act stops new drilling leases to preventing the climate crisis from spiraling further out of control

April 14, 2021

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley are leading a bicameral group of 21 lawmakers in introducing the Keep it in the Ground Act—urgent legislation to stop new fossil fuel leases and put an end to nonproducing leases for extraction of coal, oil, gas, oil shale, and tar sands extraction on public lands and in public waters.

The combustion of fossil fuels that have been extracted from America’s public lands and waters currently amount to more than 20 percent of America’s total carbon dioxide emissions. 

“The climate crisis is happening now. Communities across the country are already facing the effects of climate change, and it’s critical we reduce emissions by keeping the world’s remaining fossil fuels in the ground,” said Rep. Huffman. “This legislation is one of the most sensible steps the federal government can take to reduce emissions, protect the public, and avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change.”

“Climate chaos is causing more and more devastating wildfires, violent hurricanes, extreme droughts, and dangerous winter storms—events that are claiming lives, destroying entire communities, threatening livelihoods, and causing billions of dollars in damages,” said Merkley, who serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and is a member of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus. “And it’s communities of color and low wealth individuals who are bearing the brunt. We need a comprehensive strategy to address climate chaos head-on, and that strategy must include getting the government out of the fossil fuel business. Our public lands and waters belong to all of us—not to fossil fuel executives who want to exploit our health and our kids’ future to get rich. It’s time we put a stop to their plunder.”

“The scientific consensus is clear:  To avert the worst human, economic, and ecological consequences of climate change, we must aggressively reduce carbon emissions and accelerate our national transition to a renewable energy economy,” said Senator Leahy, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  “The cost of inaction is devastating, and we should reject the false choice between public lands conservation, combating climate change, and job creation.  These commitments are mutually reinforcing.  After four years of giveaways to fossil fuel corporations, this bill will protect public lands for the public good.”  

The bill’s introduction follows a wide variety of moves taken during the previous administration to worsen the climate crisis by opening up more public waters to oil and gas extraction in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans and making it easier for fossil fuel companies to pollute. President Biden made ending leases a campaign pledge and within the first days of the Biden administration, President Biden issued an executive order pausing the sale of new leases and directing then-Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland to evaluate the federal oil and gas leasing system. The Keep it in the Ground Act would make the current pause on leases permanent.

The legislation is endorsed by Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, WildEarth Guardians, Oil Change International, Greenpeace US, 350.org, and New York Lawyers for the Public Trust.

Merkley and Huffman were joined in the introduction by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Alex Padilla (D-CA), and by U.S. Representatives Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), William Keating (MA-09), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Cori Bush (MO-01), Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Jan Schakowsky (Il-09), and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07).

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