The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Department of the Interior Nov. 28 to challenge its failure to release public records about why it rejected a rulemaking petition to phase out oil and gas extraction on public lands by 2035.

“This lawsuit will shed light on the Biden administration’s dumbfounding refusal to align our country’s federal fossil fuel programs with its own climate goals,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “All-time high federal oil production is causing our planet’s life support systems to shut down under the stresses of the climate emergency. The administration needs to explain its failure to take bold, urgent action but instead its hiding public records.”

The Interior Department has refused to provide public records the Center requested in July, violating the Freedom of Information Act. In June the administration rejected a petition from more than 360 U.S. climate, Indigenous and conservation groups to phase out oil and gas production on federal lands and waters.

The Biden administration has approved more oil and gas drilling permits on public lands than the Trump administration. Revenue data show that annual federal oil, gas and coal production has increased since 2020 and, according to Interior officials, oil production is at an “all-time high.” A Center report released Monday found the potential carbon emissions from fossil fuel projects approved by the Biden administration threaten to exceed emissions reductions expected from the Inflation Reduction Act and other climate policies.

Fossil fuel production on public lands causes about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. The Biden administration’s expansion of federal fossil fuel production defies calls by the United Nations and a growing list of scientific bodies to end new extraction. The administration has failed to propose any policies to align federal fossil fuel production with decline curves necessary to avoid the catastrophic consequences of warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Today’s lawsuit follows another the Center filed in April to compel a response to the petition after the Interior Department ignored it for more than a year. The department claimed it had “insufficient resources” to initiate the rulemaking.

Scientific analyses since the petition was filed in 2022 show that wealthy countries must end oil and gas extraction by 2031 for the world to maintain a likely chance of avoiding the harms of warming 1.5 degrees Celsius. Avoiding heating the planet beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius requires ending new investment in fossil fuel projects and phasing out production to keep as much as 40% of already developed oil and gas fields in the ground.

Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate policy proposals in recent years.

Oil, gas and coal extraction uses mines, well pads, gas lines, roads and other infrastructure that destroys habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Oil spills and other harm from offshore drilling have done immense damage to ocean wildlife and coastal communities. Fracking and mining also pollute watersheds and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people.

Federal fossil fuels that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution; those already leased to industry contain up to 43 billion tons.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.