(EnviroNews California) — Bon Tempe Dam, Marin County, California — Taking a bold stand against new fossil fuel development on federal lands, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) said he wants to ban it for good. Those comments came during an exclusive on-camera sit-down interview with EnviroNews this spring.
Weeks later, on April 14, 2021, Huffman announced he’s co-sponsoring legislation with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) – a bill that would halt new leases for fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters. The reintroduction of the “Keep it in the Ground Act of 2021” was applauded by environmental groups.
Mining fossil fuels and fracking were major topics during the 2020 election. On the campaign trail and in debates, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden said he was “not going to ban fracking,” but in his final debate against President Trump in Nashville on October 22, 2020, Biden predicted an apocalyptic timeline for the environment:
Climate change, climate warming, global warming is an existential threat to humanity. We have a moral obligation to deal with it. And we’re told by all the leading scientists in the world that we don’t have much time. We’re going to pass the point of no return within the next eight to 10 years.
Just seven days after he took office, President Biden took sweeping action and asked his Interior Department (DOI) to pause new oil and natural gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters. This leasing shutdown does not affect existing operations or permits for existing leases, which are still being reviewed and approved. There are no such restrictions on energy exploration on private, state or Tribal lands, though in some states fracking has been banned.
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The Biden Administration later announced in a news release that it will review the federal oil and gas program to ensure that it serves in the public interest: “Irresponsible leasing of public lands and waters impacts communities’ access to clean air, clean water, and outdoor recreation; carves up important wildlife habitat; and threatens cultural and sacred sites.” The DOI added that fossil fuel extraction on public lands accounts for nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Some Republican lawmakers and representatives from the oil and gas industries had sharp criticism for the temporary moratorium. Anne Bradbury, CEO of the American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC), said Biden’s executive orders are more symbolic and don’t promote real solutions to the global issue of climate change, saying, “Penalizing the oil and gas industry kills good-paying American jobs, hurts our already struggling economy, makes our country more reliant on foreign energy sources, and impacts those who rely on affordable and reliable energy.”
On March 26, 2021, in an exclusive sit-down interview with EnviroNews Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry at Bon Tempe Dam in Marin County, CA, Rep. Huffman said he’s ready to take on the battle to freeze all new fossil fuel development on public lands.
The one-minute and fifty-one-second on-camera segment can be seen in the video player atop this story. The transcript reads as follows:
Emerson Urry: To get a little more granular with that, we’ve got roughly I’ve heard about 20 trillion dollars of oil and gas infrastructure we’re committed to in this country, and when the presidential campaign was going on, we heard in one debate, we heard President Biden say, “I am not going to ban fracking,” but we’ve got about “eight” years before it’s too late with the climate.
Rep. Jared Huffman: Yeah.
Urry: That sounds pretty intense. That sounds like we need a moonshot effort.
Urry: So, what do you think is in store there and how are we going to get that moonshot effort and what is it going to take to get industry and the country at large to start moving away from that 20 trillion dollars’ worth of infrastructure we’ve got there?
Huffman: So, let me see if I can unpack some of the pieces that are in that question. First of all, I don’t think people should read too terribly much into that “I’m not going to ban fracking” statement by President Biden because he also was clear and has since taken action that under his administration, we’re going to suspend all new oil and gas development — all new fossil fuel development — on public land. So, there’s always been an important distinction between what happens on public land; and a lot of the fracking is on private land. So, it is a whole different political kettle of fish to say: I’m going to go on to all the private land in the United States to ban fracking.
Huffman: But what he’s doing on public land is very, very important: an immediate freeze on all new fossil fuel development of any kind. I am going to work to try to extend that temporary freeze into a permanent moratorium. And that’s an important step toward our Keep it in the Ground goal. Just as you mentioned, we’ve got all of this fossil fuel out there that we cannot afford to develop if we’re going to hit our climate targets.
VIEW MORE SEGMENTS FROM THIS ENVIRONEWS FEATURE INTERVIEW SERIES WITH REPRESENTATIVE JARED HUFFMAN