America’s public lands are being sold at bargain prices for oil, coal and gas extraction — making the world’s wealthiest companies richer, and making the world’s climate crisis worse.
Some of the world’s richest energy companies — like ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and Arch Coal — are exploiting and degrading America’s public lands and offshore waters, causing serious harm to the health of communities and sending massive carbon pollution into the atmosphere through increasingly extreme extraction methods. Today, more than 65 million acres of public lands are already leased to the fossil fuel industry — that’s 55 times the size of Grand Canyon National Park! Mining, drilling, and fracking for coal, oil, and gas on publicly owned lands accounts for an astonishing one-quarter of the United States’ climate change emissions.
The federal government enables this destruction at a tremendous cost to the U.S. taxpayer by selling off our national forests, grasslands, deserts, oceans, and sacred heritage sites for pennies on the dollar — incredibly, for as little as $2 an acre. The antiquated and opaque federal fossil fuel leasing program transfers vast amounts of public wealth into private hands by auctioning off public lands and offshore waters for corporate profit.
Today, Rainforest Action Network is releasing a groundbreaking new report, Public Lands, Private Profits, that pulls back the curtain on this corporate giveaway of America’s treasured public lands.1 For example, just 15 huge fossil fuel companies — such as Shell, Chevron and BP — control 36% of leased federal land. These “Filthy 15” dirty energy corporations generate millions of dollars of profit every year by abusing our shared national resources, shaping our environmental future for generations to come. Between them, they’re responsible for a horrific legacy of environmental disasters: offshore oil spills, explosions, pipeline ruptures, and household water contamination, resulting in multi-million dollar settlements.
President Obama has the constitutional authority to issue an Executive Order to immediately end the outdated practice of fossil fuel leasing on public lands and offshore waters. With a stroke of his pen, he could stop bankrolling wealthy energy corporations, prevent environmental destruction, preserve the heritage of Indigenous sacred sites, and slow the disastrous effects of climate change. He could keep a staggering 450 billion tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere — almost half of all potential emissions from remaining U.S. fossil fuels.2 By contrast, the president’s Climate Action Plan, if fully implemented, would keep less than 6 billion tons of carbon out of the air.3 If President Obama wants a truly lasting climate legacy, he should end fossil fuel leasing on public lands.
Two weeks ago, RAN and more than 400 national allies delivered a letter to the White House calling for President Obama to stop the corporate giveaway of public lands and become a real leader on climate change.4 Now the president needs to hear from you. Please stand with us! Add your voice.
1. Public Lands, Private Profits, Rainforest Action Network, September 2015
2. “The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels”, EcoShift Consulting, Center for Biological Diversity, and Friends of the Earth, August 2015
3. “President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: 2nd Anniversary Progress Report”, The White House, June 2015
4. “President Obama Urged to End Fossil Fuel Leases on Public Land”, Inside Climate News, September 14, 2015