Los Padres ForestWatch Praises Moratorium on Federal Fossil Fuel Extraction

Los Padres ForestWatch Praises Moratorium on Federal Fossil Fuel Extraction title=
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Source: Los Padres ForestWatch

[On Wednesday], the Biden administration signed an executive order that places a moratorium on new leasing of federal land and mineral estate for fossil fuel extraction pending a comprehensive review of the federal leasing program. The order would halt new leasing for oil and gas drilling and fracking on national forests, parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, and other federal public lands. The order includes Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument, already impacted by federal oil development, as well as the 1.2 million acres of land and mineral estate across the Central Coast that the Bureau of Land Management began leasing for oil drilling and fracking in December. 

The public will have a chance to participate in the review of the federal oil and gas program to ensure that it serves the people and protects natural resources. Los Padres ForestWatch will make sure that area residents have access to all the information they need to participate.  

The move comes just one day after Representatives Salud Carbajal and Jimmy Panetta reintroduced the California Land Protection Act and the California Central Coast Conservation Act, aimed at reversing the former administration’s drilling and fracking lease plan across Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo and other counties across central and southern California until a proper environmental impact study is conducted. 

“The Trump administration has left our local public lands vulnerable to rampant industrialization. We applaud the Biden administration for this first step toward making our forests and grasslands part of the climate solution, not part of the climate problem,” said Los Padres ForestWatch advocacy director Rebecca August. “We hope that the administration takes this opportunity to make an account of the true cost of fossil fuels—a cost that is being paid by our communities, wildlife, and our environment.” 

The moratorium will not negatively impact U.S. energy independence or national security, nor will it affect existing leases and already-approved oil wells on public lands.  Of the lands the oil industry has already leased for oil development, more than half (53% or 13.9 million acres) remain untapped or are not currently producing. Similarly, the oil industry is sitting on 7,700 unused, approved drilling permits. These existing leases and permits are unaffected by today's action and can be relied on to produce oil and gas for years. Additionally, the vast majority of U.S. petroleum is extracted on private lands and are thus exempt from the order. Only 10% of current oil development is on federal lands, yet oil and gas production on public lands accounts for about 25% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  

“It is a welcome change that elected officials are listening to the more than 100,000 voices across the Central Coast, joining a those from across the country, demanding an end to oil development on public lands,” August said. “We work to protect these iconic landscapes and last wild places for the public good, not to hand over to the oil industry. We look forward to working with Congress and the Biden Administration to enact lasting protection for places like the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument.” 

A second executive order signed by the President today committed to protecting 30% of U.S. lands and waters by the year 2030. Together, with the federal leasing moratorium, these mandates will both reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon sequestration. They will improve biodiversity, climate change resiliency, and access to quality outdoor recreation for Californians. 

Over 245,000 acres across the Central Coast was proposed for wilderness protection in the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, a bill that passed the House twice last session as part of a larger bill that protected over 1 million acres of public lands across California. If passed, this bill, which includes lands in Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument, would help meet the President’s 30x30 goals. 

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