Thursday, November 05, 2015

Merkley & Sanders Introduce Bill to End New and Non-Producing Oil and Gas Leases on Public Lands


Source: Bureau of Land Management. Does not show area available for offshore drilling

by Gaius Publius

The idea of ending the hypocritical role of the federal government in aiding and betting the warming of our planet is not a hard idea to hold, especially if you're a climate-aware citizen, or climate-aware president. Yet, for some reason, the federal government, the guardian of land owned by the public, is still in the coal, oil and gas business.

Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley want to end that, with a bill called the "Keep It In The Ground" Act. Meteor Blades at Daily Kos (my emphasis):
Merkley and Sanders introduce bill to end new and non-producing oil and gas leases on public lands

Flanked by Sierra Club president Aaron Mair, tribal rights attorney Tara Zhaabowekwe Houska‎, and founder Bill McKibben, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced legislation Wednesday to stop issuing leases to extract fossil fuels from on- and off-shore federal lands. Titled the Keep It in the Ground Act, the bill would also terminate all existing federal leases that are not producing. Co-sponsors of the legislation are Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer, Ben Cardin, Kirsten Gillibrand, Patrick Leahy, and Elizabeth Warren.

Behind the legislation is a simple message: When the common good depends on our adapting to and ameliorating the impacts of climate change, it makes no sense for public land meant for that common good to continue as a source of the fuels that are driving global warming.

Standing with a crowd of supporters near the Capitol in Washington, Sanders and Merkley praised the aggressive grassroots environmental movement that has been at the forefront of climate change activism, including opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that looks closer than ever to extinction.

The two senators and Mair also spoke about ensuring that workers in the fossil fuel industry are not left behind. Merkely said their legislation, in particular, and fighting climate change, in general, by ending the extraction and burning of fossil fuels should not be an exercise in green vs. blue. Ours, he said, "must be a green and blue movement" with eco-activists working side by side with workers in the transition to renewable energy sources now underway.

Sanders said we have a "moral responsibility" not to bequeath a planet to our kids and grandkids "that is unhealthy and in some cases uninhabitable." You can't just "talk the talk" and then support extracting huge amounts of oil and gas from federal lands, he declared.
There's quite a bit more at the link, including this, about how to protect workers during the transition.
Mair, who has been president of the Sierra Club since May, said what is needed is a "green TARP" for fossil fuel workers, referencing the 2008 bail-out of financial institutions. Activists need to push a fully funded clean-green energy transition that protects workers, he added. He recommended "retooling" America just as was done to defeat the Axis powers during World War II. Houska, a member of the Couchiching First Nation, spoke in favor of the legislation, noting that indigenous people have been in the forefront of the climate change fight because they are among the most affected by those changes and by the extraction of fossil fuels.
Note the reference to World War II and its "retooling" of America. If I remember my history, that wasn't a "free market" effort — as in, General Motors didn't get to "free market decide" how many tanks and jeeps to build. The word for that kind of effort is "emergency mobilization." Stay tuned for more; this actually represents a way out of the worst of the mess we're headed for.

The article also notes that "Current extraction of fossil fuel from federal lands and waters accounts for nearly one-fourth of all emissions in the United States" (my emphasis) so this is not nothing. On the other hand, it will take quite a bit to get this passed.

How You Can Help

What this bill does:

1. It lays down a marker, a stake in the ground. "Keep it in the ground" is a moral obligation and a doable one. It's also easy to understand and an easy phrase to remember.

You can help — by asking, as the writer says, "every candidate for public office, Democrat or Republican—from city councils to state legislatures to Congress—whether they agree climate change has created what Sanders calls a 'major, major, major' crisis and if so, what they propose to do to meet the challenges that crisis presents." As the writer correctly notes, "Anybody who blows off such questions or treats them as a side issue is worthy of progressives' disdain, not our support."

2. It tells you what a President Sanders would strive to do if he achieves the Oval Office. That's big. Will any other announced candidate back this bill, and by implication, support the ending of climate-killing carbon leases on public land?

You can help — by supporting Bernie Sanders in his bid for that office. Adjust the split any way you wish at the link. You can also help by asking Mr. O'Malley and Ms. Clinton the same question. They deserve the right to answer.


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At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And what are the chances that this bill will even get the opportunity to be voted down with robust "bipartisan" lack-of support?

John Puma

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Lauren Steiner said...

I helped a little with this. Back in October, when I met Bernie in Richmond, I asked him to make a video asking people to support California's movement to ban fracking, and he did. Food and Water Watch used this video to petition Sen. Sanders to introduce legislation in the Senate banning fracking on public lands. In June, I delivered 20,000 signatures to him at a fundraiser here in LA. I then helped FWW get a meeting with the environmental policy staffer in his Senate office. It was reported back that his one hesitation was union opposition. And as we know here in CA, the Building Trades unions have blocked our efforts to ban fracking in the state and in cities where it has come up for a vote. So his inclusion of what is called the Just Transition, is great.

I think it is great that you are calling for all of us to get involved in the fight to ban fracking locally. On Monday, people from all over the state are going to Bakersfield to speak at a public hearing to expedite oil drilling permits for the next 25 years. This is in Kern County which is home to 95% of the oil drilling and 75% of the fracking in CA. I have encouraged members of LA for Bernie to attend this hearing with me. And I hope other Bernie supporters and people who just oppose fracking will do the same.

What: Public Hearing before the Kern County Board of Supervisors
When: Monday, November 9 at 9:00am
Where: 1115 Truxtun Ave. Bakersfield, CA 93301

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said... Well, I remember candidate Obama (pre-obamanation??) campaigning AGAINST the Rs' "drill baby drill" mantra in 2008.

Yet, this POS charlatan money fellating fraud of a democrat BECAME what he campaigned against.

I have no real reason to think that Bernie will do this... but history is not on his side.

We DO KNOW that hilbillary, the democrat platform, republicons and a majority of American voters (who vote) DO NOT SUPPORT this. So... there's that.

Those of us/US who actually think and reason KNOW that this is a puny if necessary first step. But we are not a majority.

And even if we hornswaggled congress to do this... it's still far too late to "fix" climate change. We're on a runaway train already. We blew our only real chance to do anything about this when we UN-elected Jimmy Carter in 1980.


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