Washington, DC — 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and grassroots leaders joined Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at the Capitol this afternoon to introduce a bold new piece of climate legislation, the “Keep It In the Ground Act.”
The bill would ban new fossil fuel leases on public lands and in Federal waters, forever protecting sensitive areas like the Arctic and the Atlantic coastline. The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
“At once both visionary and the epitome of common sense, this legislation is crucial to slowing the rise of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and hence the overheating of the Earth,” said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, who has helped popularize the stark reality that 80% of fossil fuels must remain unburned in order to limit the worst impacts of climate change.
“Climate change is already impacting our world through greater forest fires and droughts, with serious effects on our farming, fishing and forest economies. The main cause is carbon pollution, and the impacts will only get worse in the coming decades if we keep burning fossil fuels unchecked,” said Senator Merkley. “One key part of the solution is lying literally beneath our feet. A major contribution to this challenge would be stopping new fossil fuel leases on our public lands that lock in oil, gas and coal extraction for decades into the future. Our public lands should be managed for the public good, not for private profit.”
The introduction of the act is a major step forward for the growing movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and both Senator Merkley and Senator Sanders highlighted the importance of the grassroots in making the bill possible. Today’s press conference came on the heels of a request from the pipeline company TransCanada that the State Department pause its review of Keystone XL because the pipeline has become so toxic and is likely to be rejected by the Obama administration.
“We are taking on the Koch brothers and some of the most powerful political forces in the world who are more concerned with short-term profits than the future of the planet,” said Senator Bernie Sanders. “I’ve got four kids and I’ve got seven beautiful grandchildren. We have a moral responsibility to leave our kids a planet that is healthy and habitable.”
Over the coming days and months, the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground will continue to grow. This Thursday morning, 350.org and its allies in Canada will begin a four day sit-in infront of newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s residence, urging him to freeze expansion of the tar sands and start a just transition to 100% renewable energy.
“We have to fight for the seven generations. We have to fight for our grandchildren. We have to keep it in the ground,” said said Tara Houska, an attorney and representative of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Keep it in the ground isn’t just a good idea–it’s a moral necessity for our people.”
What They’re Saying About the Keep It in the Ground Act
Bill McKibben, Co-Founder, 350.org:
“At once both visionary and the epitome of common sense, this legislation is crucial to slowing the rise of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and hence the overheating of the Earth.”
Aaron Mair, President, Sierra Club:
“Thanks to Senator Merkley’s bold leadership, Congress can work to take the next step in the fight against climate change: leaving dirty fuels in the only safe place for them — the ground.”
Rhea Suh, President, Natural Resources Defense Council:
“Phasing out coal, gas and oil production on our federal lands and waters must be part of our broader strategy to shift from dirty fuels that drive climate change to clean energy that powers our future without threatening our kids. The Merkley bill puts us on track for the orderly transition we need. It deserves our full support.
“Condemning public waters and lands to oil, gas and coal exploitation far into the future only locks our children and grandchildren into dependence on the very fuels that are driving climate chaos. We need to protect future generations from the growing dangers of this widening scourge, not sentence them to even greater damage and risk.
“That means prioritizing renewable energy, where appropriate, on our federal lands, and moving beyond the dirty fuels of the past. This is about aligning public resources with the public interest, protecting our waters, wildlife and lands and striking a blow against the central environmental and health challenge of our time.”
Gene Karpinski, President, League of Conservation Voters:
“We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to cut carbon pollution and protect our public lands, and that means we need an all-hands-on-deck effort to accelerate our transition from dirty to clean energy. We commend Senator Merkley for his longtime leadership in this fight and for this bold legislation which is a clear departure from the dirty energy policies of the past and moves us toward an economy increasingly powered by clean energy.”
Margie Alt, Executive Director, Environment America:
“We’re already experiencing dangerous consequences of climate change — from drought, to superstorms, to rising seas — and scientists are clear that to avoid even more catastrophic impacts, we must transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. We simply can’t continue to drill, mine and burn more fossil fuels while global warming passes the point of no return. Sen. Merkley’s bill will protect our beaches, the fragile Arctic, and some of our most treasured natural areas — all while keeping dirty fuels in the ground where they belong.”
Kieran Suckling, Executive Director, Center for Biological Diversity:
“U.S. climate policy must curb fossil fuel supply as well as demand. Regulating smokestacks and tailpipes isn’t enough; fossil fuels that are extracted will be burned. The natural place to start phasing out supply is on our public lands and oceans where a ban on new leasing will keep up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution in the ground.”
Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch:
“The Keep It in the Ground Act is an important step in the fight against climate change. The urgency of transitioning to a clean energy future means we cannot continue to extract fossil fuels, especially through inherently dangerous processes such as fracking, from our public lands, both onshore and offshore. Yesterday, we joined more than 1,250 groups from across the world to call on President Obama and other world leaders attending the Paris climate talks to ban fracking and transition to a renewable energy future.”
Marissa Knodel, Climate Campaigner, Friends of the Earth:
“The group of Senators sponsoring this bill are demonstrating true climate leadership when we need it most. The Keep It in the Ground Act of 2015 sets the bar for what the U.S. can and should achieve in the global fight to prevent climate catastrophe.”