COVER PHOTO: Drilling along the Rocky Mountain Front in Lewis & Clark County, Montana. (Fairfield Sun Times photo by Darryl L. Flowers)
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) launched a public lands debate this week after unveiling her plan to prohibit drilling for new oil and gas development on federal lands both onshore and offshore in order to “end our public lands’ contribution to climate change.”
“I want to make you a promise—that is, on the first day of a Warren administration—on the first day, I will sign a moratorium that our public lands there will be no more new drilling or mining,” Warren said in Aurora, Colo. Tuesday evening.
On Monday, Warren announced her plans for public lands on Medium, outlining her goals on eliminating natural resource development on public lands, expanding renewable electricity generation on public lands, and restore two national monuments in Utah to their Obama-era boundaries.
“It is wrong to prioritize corporate profits over the health and safety of our local communities. That’s why on my first day as president, I will sign an executive order that says no more drilling — a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands (emphasis in original),” Warren wrote.
Warren also added she would reverse other Trump administration policies.
“I’d also reinstate the methane pollution rule to limit existing oil and gas projects from releasing harmful gases that poison our air, and reinstitute the clean water rule to protect our lakes, rivers, and streams, and the drinking water they provide,” she added.
As for renewables, Warren would use public lands not only for siting but to push through projects as a way of reducing further use of fossil fuels.
“As President, I will set a goal of providing 10% of our overall electricity generation from renewable sources offshore or on public lands. (emphasis in original) That’s nearly ten times what we are currently generating. We can achieve this goal while prioritizing sites with low impact on local ecology but high potential for renewable energy generation. My administration will make it a priority to expedite leases and incentivize development in existing designated areas, and share royalties from renewable generation with states and local communities to help promote economic development and reduce local dependence on fossil fuel revenues,” Warren wrote.
At a separate event earlier Tuesday, Warren suggested opening more public lands for recreation in a “sustainable manner.” That includes concessions for the sale of food in order to boost local economies, the AP reporter Nick Riccardi tweeted.
Despite her plan for public lands, other Democrats were less enthusiastic. Former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska promised “release a public lands plan that will make Elizabeth Warren look like Ryan Zinke,” his campaign manager told E&ENews.
But whether Warren or any other presidential candidate could implement a halt on drilling without conflicting with federally mandated quarterly lease sales would likely trigger questions about legality and a raft of lawsuits.
In Western states like New Mexico, the end of quarterly lease sales would threaten a revenue stream that drove more than a billion dollars to education alone in 2018, endangering progress for a state that has only recently seen dramatic improvements in many educational benchmarks due to increased revenues and investments thanks to oil and gas development in the state.