No New Oil & Gas Leasing! Hearing on Climate & Offshore Drilling

By Valerie Cleland

In a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee this week, committee members focused on the link between offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. climate goals. So much is clear: Continued ‘business as usual’ offshore oil and gas leasing simply does not get us on track to meet our climate goals.

Every decision our leaders make now must consider a future for clean energy, not to continue our dependence on fossil fuels. And the administration can and must move towards this future by offering a five-year education without leasing. As a quick reminder, offshore leasing is regulated under the Department of Interior through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). Every five years, BOEM is tasked with publishing an offshore leasing program that considers the impact of leasing on the environment and communities.

Rep. Levin

This year, BOEM is releasing a new five-year program. Rep. Mike Levin of California was right when he said, “I believe that it would be contrary to the administration’s stated climate and environmental justice goals to include any new lease in BOEM’s upcoming five-year plan, which is why I urge the administration to move forward with a five-year lease that does not include new leases. ”

Subcommittee President Alan Lowenthal laid the groundwork for this consultation: the climate crisis. Earth’s seven warmest years ever have taken place since 2015; there is no doubt that climate change is already here and affecting local communities. Offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is certainly contributing to climate change, and the last thing oil and gas companies need is more leases. As rep. Lowenthal pointed out during the hearing that they have already stored over 9 million acres of leases that they do not use. Putting an end to new leasing in the Gulf and elsewhere in the United States would help reduce global emissions.

Rep. Lowenthal

“We know that reducing emissions from oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico will help reduce total carbon emissions. Research shows that eliminating 1 barrel of U.S. oil supply reduces the global supply by about half a barrel on average. We can successfully reduce oil and gas leasing in the United States without increasing emissions abroad. ” – Rep. Lowenthal, California

The House Democrats called three expert witnesses to testify about drilling in the Gulf and the associated climate and environmental justice implications.

doctor Kristina Dahl

Dr. Kristina Dahl, a senior climate researcher at the Union of Concerned Scientists, spoke on the climate crisis and shared that “With such high stakes, it continues with leasing sales in the Gulf of Mexico without taking the time to fully investigate whether or how activated extraction will fit in the future of our nation is both ruthless and irresponsible. “

Dr. Beverly Wright

Dr. Beverly Wright, CEO of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, spoke strongly about what Gulf communities have experienced in the hands of the fossil fuel industry, “I have seen and felt the effects of climate change, environmental racism and policies that favor oil and the gas industry rather than the health and safety of black children and families. ” She linked the health impacts of offshore drilling to petrochemical facilities affecting communities along the Gulf Coast.

Max Sarinsky

Max Sarinsky, a senior lawyer at the Department of Political Integrity, focused his testimony on what Interior has the power to do and the need to use the best models and the best available science, and shared, “In short, the Federal Fossil Program fuels greatly increase global greenhouse gas emissions, severely hurting current and future generations of Americans “and” the federal government should reform oil and gas leasing to address climate damage and refocus land use policy toward facilitating a necessary transition to a sustainable economy. “

The House Republicans pulled out the same, tired and outdated arguments in favor of continuing to support the fossil fuel industry at the expense of climate and society. Republicans’ denial of the realities of environmental racism and the need to reform our shattered federal oil and gas leasing system is deeply troubling.

Rep. Donald McEachin of Virginia, a true advocate for environmental justice, questioned witnesses on how to move toward a just future for renewable energy that would create jobs that do not come at the expense of public health and the climate. Rep. Katie Porter of California, in her usual style, asked direct questions about how much taxpayers subsidize both the extraction and cleanup of fossil fuels. Last year alone, we subsidized the oil and gas industry for a staggering $ 660 billion.

The theme of this consultation was clear; Offshore drilling is contributing to the climate crisis, damaging frontline communities, and we can not continue to rent the Gulf as business as usual. Not only must the Ministry of the Interior account for climate damage and the environmentally just consequences of new leasing, but there is a real opportunity to change what our energy future looks like. As rep. Levin put it, “we must consider how incompatible our federal oil and gas program is with our efforts to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis.”

The Gulf Coast communities and marine ecosystems are already bearing the brunt of climate change in countless ways, from hurricanes to heat waves to the health impacts of serious people. As we imagine the future clean energy we need, the conclusion of new offshore oil and gas leasing should be part of that conversation. The next step is clear – BOEM must offer a new five-year program without leasing so that we can start moving towards a better future for the Gulf Coast and our climate.

Courtesy of NRDC.

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