Take Action in Support of No New Leases
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The federal government is accepting comments on a 5-Year Offshore Oil and Gas Lease Program. We need your voice to join in solidarity with communities in the Gulf and the Arctic and call for no new leases!
Now is a crucial time to speak up to protect public waters from offshore drilling!
The federal government recently released a proposed 5-year program to lease parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook inlet for oil and gas development. The public can weigh in on the program and its draft Environmental Impact Statement in two ways: through a virtual hearing happening September 12th, or through written testimony submitted online through October 6th, 2022.
Click here to access the full plan and the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (scroll down under the tab and click on “Proposed Program for 2023-2028” and “Draft PEIS for 2023-2028, Volume 1”).
While government documents like this program can be long and complicated – your comments don’t have to be! What’s important is that we bring more voices into the conversation about these decisions that impact us all. The Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) must consider all comments and address the concerns that come out of them. Comments also create an important record that could be used for future legal challenges.
Comments are public, and you can browse other comments people have already written at Regulations.gov by selecting “Browse Posted Comments.” Taproot Earth has created this guide to strengthen your public input, and keep reading for further information on how and why we must seize this moment to speak up!
Organizations and communities in the Gulf South are organizing under the message #WeChooseNow. It’s a call to everyone – the public, NGOs, regulators, elected officials, corporations – to act in solidarity with those on the frontlines of the fossil fuel industry who are choosing now to demand that no more communities become “sacrifice zones” for the fossil fuel industry.
#WeChooseNow to demand no new leases because…
The 2010 BP Oil drilling disaster is considered one of the world’s worst environmental catastrophes, and resulted in the deaths of 11 people. That tragedy often comes to mind when we think about the dangers of drilling in the ocean floor, yet incidents with offshore wells are more common than you may think. The map below shows 2,192 oil spills in coastal waters, or into other waterways that warranted a response from NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Many of these incidents are in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska. In 2020, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement reported 87 fires, 73 gas releases, and 11 significant oil spills (greater than one barrel, or 42 gallons) associated with offshore energy development.
Oil spills can have a dramatic impact on marine life and the people who depend on the water for their livelihoods or subsistence harvests.The Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 released 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound, killing thousands of animals and causing devastating financial hardships for fisherfolk and entire towns along the coast.
The 5-Year Plan includes an option for one potential lease sale in the northern portion of the Cook Inlet of Alaska. The Cook Inlet’s watershed extends 192 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city. It’s a biodiverse ecosystem that’s highly productive for plants and animals. Over half of the state’s population lives within the Cook Inlet Watershed, and Alaska Native Villages depend on the region to support traditional and subsistence lifestyles.
Alaskan communities are not only facing the risk of oil spills – they are also on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Alaska is experiencing melting glaciers which degrade water quality and thawing permafrost (frozen ground), which releases methane in a harmful feedback loop that accelerates climate change. These climate changes have resulted in damaged buildings and roads, food and drinking water insecurities, flooding, and a reduction of subsistence harvests.
The BP oil spill put thousands of people who depend on fishing out of work, and BP was issued a $20 billion penalty for all the damage it caused to the Gulf. Despite that disaster, the vast majority of offshore oil and gas production continues to take place in the Gulf of Mexico, where it’s disproportionately impacting Black communities, and perpetuating a legacy of lost access to land and natural resources felt by Indigenous communities. The 5-Year Plan includes up to ten potential lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico.
Once again, those impacted by offshore development are also already shouldering the country’s climate change burden. The Gulf of Mexico is experiencing rising sea level, floods, and loss of wetlands, which are crucial for protecting the coastline from intense storms. It’s estimated that Louisiana loses roughly 30 square miles of land every year. Historic Black communities along the coast have faced devastation from hurricanes and the lack of recovery efforts that follow them, as agencies like FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) have failed to provide emergency housing and relief efforts. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry is taking advantage of displaced communities and tax exemptions to cheaply construct along the Mississippi, further pushing out impacted neighborhoods.
Hurricanes also increase volatility for the industry. According to BOEM’s Oil and Gas Production Forecast report, 2020’s hurricane season resulted in “in 2020, an active hurricane season caused 43 million barrels of lost oil production.
Continued Drilling Doesn’t Align With National Climate Commitments or Energy Needs
The Biden Administration has committed to cut carbon emissions 50% by 2030 and reach net zero domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as part of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. A recent report on Paris-compliant carbon budgets by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change research states “there is no capacity in the carbon budget for opening up new production facilities of any kind, whether coal mines, oil wells or gas terminals” and that “a transition based on principles of equity requires wealthy, high-emitting nations to phase out all oil and gas production by 2034.”
Demand for fossil fuels is projected to decline as renewable technology is deployed, making new leases unnecessary, particularly as thousands of leases on federal lands are currently unused. About 15% of US oil production occurs offshore, with much of this oil going into transportation fuels. Advancements in electric vehicle technology will continue to lessen the demand for oil production, and future climate change policy and investments could accelerate this decline.
According to energy analysts at OnLocation, stopping new leases would not have a major impact on gasoline and diesel prices, only raising the price 2 cents per gallon higher by 2035. This impact could be even smaller depending on developments in sustainable transportation
When You’re in a Hole, Stop Drilling
The Biden Administration and the Department of Interior (DOI) have the power to stop fossil fuel extraction in the ocean. In fact, BOEM is considering no leases as an alternative in its Draft Environmental Impact Assessment. Its “No Action Alternative” consists of, “approval of a 2023–2028 Program that does not schedule any lease sales.”
To protect frontline communities and meet our climate commitments, the Biden Administration must choose no new lease sales in offshore waters. This is an even more crucial action given recent developments with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA contains positive climate legislation that advances renewable energy and transportation technology. Yet it also mandates lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, once again sacrificing the Gulf South and the Arctic.
The body of research supporting the feasibility of 100% renewable energy systems is growing, and we must center the Gulf South and the Arctic at the forefront of these climate solutions. There is nothing “just” about a transition that leaves out the communities most impacted by the fossil fuel industry. That’s why #WeChooseNow to energy systems that create a healthy and just future for us all.
Make your voice heard, submit a comment today!
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