Rainforest Action Network statement on President Obama’s State of the Union:

Reforming a misguided program will not lead to climate stability

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama alluded to changes to the leasing of public lands for oil, coal and gas leases. These reforms may entail increased royalty rates or new rules on emissions, but they will not fix the program. Instead, reforming this broken system, which unleashes a full quarter of fossil fuel emissions in the U.S., only delays much needed action to stop climate change now. We ask President Obama to end leasing of public lands and waters for fossil fuel extraction and make good on his commitment in Paris at December’s climate summit.


Leasing to fossil fuel companies also presents significant financial and disaster risk. Just this week, one of the biggest and most ruthless coal companies in the U.S., Arch Coal, proclaimed bankruptcy. Arch coal conducts mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia, proven to have devastating environmental and health impacts to surrounding communities. “Arch Coal not only shook people out of their homes by blasting above them, they also destroyed the hope of building back the community by causing irreversible damage to the area’s water,” says Brandon Nida, community organizer with Friends of Blair Mountain. Arch Coal also holds leases to mine on public lands throughout the US. 


Other companies in the federal fossil fuel leasing program, such as Cloud Peak, Peabody Energy, and Exxon, have also been responsible for major environmental destruction, including on public lands and waters. Reforms cannot address irreparable pollution and human impacts, escalating climate change, or the risk in doing business with outdated, unsteady companies. The Obama Administration should steer the country clear from dirty fuels and filthy companies. “It’s time to stop the corporate giveaway of public lands and waters. Obama has the power to create real, lasting change by ending the fossil fuel leasing program.  An executive act would cut 25% of US climate change emissions and set the stage to transition beyond fossil fuels,” says Ruth Breech, Senior Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network.