Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 16, 2015

Contact: Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414,
Blair FitzGibbon, Media Coordinator, (202) 503-6141

Statements Responding to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell From 'Keep It in the Ground' Coalition

WASHINGTON— Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on Tuesday criticized a call by more than 400 organizations, scientists, labor, faith, indigenous and community leaders to end new federal fossil fuel leasing of public lands and oceans in the United States.  Conservation groups involved in the effort issued the following statement.

“In the face of a looming climate crisis, Secretary Jewell’s statements are deeply troubling. The fact that society uses fossil fuels doesn’t obviate the need to quickly decarbonize and stop digging them up. Sixty-seven million acres of public land and ocean are already leased to industry. Those contain 43 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution. And this is atop 42 million more acres proposed by her agency on Friday. That’s decades’ worth of fossil fuel, and more than can ever safely be burned. The Department of the Interior’s rampant leasing program is wildly out of step with President Obama’s climate rhetoric. Our climate can’t afford the pollution from more federal fossil fuel leasing, and the natural place for President Obama to start leading the global fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground is on our public lands.” —Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity

“Secretary Jewell's echoing of American Coal Council talking points made it clear that she is part of the climate problem. Instead of making excuses for fossil fuel companies, she should be kicking them off our public lands and waters. It's really disappointing to see Secretary Jewell echoing industry talking points to defend fossil fuel extraction.  If she were serious about fighting global warming, she would use all the power under her discretion to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Unfortunately, she just seems disconnected from the science and reality of climate change.” —Erich Pica, President, Friends of the Earth

“This is a straw man, and Secretary Jewell knows it. Absolutely no one is suggesting that we can end society’s reliance on fossil fuel use tomorrow, but that’s no excuse for failing to do our part today. If we’re serious about transitioning to an economy powered by 100 percent renewables, we need to stop digging for more, and green-lighting projects like Keystone XL that prolong our dependence on fossil fuels. Let’s be clear: fossil fuel companies already hold way more in reserves than our world can safely burn, and more than enough to cover U.S. consumption as we make the transition to a clean economy. That leaves no good reason why our government should continue to let massive corporations mine taxpayer land for even more that science tells us they can’t burn. Here’s the bottom line: The Obama administration’s signature achievement on climate change cuts 5 gigatons of pollution by 2030 — while 450 gigatons sit beneath publicly owned water and soil. Banning fossil fuel extraction on public lands won’t solve the problem by itself, but it has to happen if we’re serious about a solution. It’s the perfect opportunity for the Obama administration to take a historic step and align its actions with the rhetoric.” —May Boeve, Executive Director

“We face a climate crisis of monumental proportions. Secretary Jewell’s dismissal of reasonable calls to stop extracting the fossil fuels that are destroying our planet from federal lands as an ‘oversimplification’ and her continued defense of our dependence on them is inexcusable. President Obama and Secretary Jewell need to stop promoting fracking, drilling, and an all-of-the-above energy policy. On the eve of the Pope’s visit to the United States, they should rise to the moral challenge of our time and take bold action to ban fracking, drilling, and other extraction on our federal lands and lead the global community to protect our planet for future generations.” —Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director

“Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell responded today to a broad call to end federal leasing of fossil fuels by attacking a proposal no one has made. Groups have called merely for an end to new coal, oil and gas leases on public lands, not an immediate end to fossil fuel use. Jewell’s claim that an end to new federal leasing of fossil fuels means no electricity for our homes or gas for our cars would be laughable if it came from the usual climate deniers in Congress. It’s a sad testament to how out of step the Interior Department is with our nation’s climate objectives that this is her response to a thoughtful proposal made by faith groups, health professionals, unions, climate scientists and citizen activists. The truth is we do not need one more new lease for coal, oil or gas on our public lands to guarantee a healthy economy. Existing leases will last decades and private development longer. Until Secretary Jewell understands this, she harms the nation through her agency’s huge and continuing contributions to climate pollution.” —John Horning, Executive Director, WildEarth Guardians

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