Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she'd ban new fossil fuel production on federal lands as president

Key Points
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she would sign an executive order placing a "total moratorium" on new federal oil and gas leases on her first day as president.
  • The 2020 Democratic presidential contender says her administration would focus on building new renewable energy projects on public lands.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
James Lawler Duggan | Reuters

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Monday that she would immediately move to place a "total moratorium" on new federal fossil fuel leases if elected president, blocking energy companies from drilling offshore and producing oil, gas and coal from U.S. government-owned land.

The Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 contender said she would prioritize building new renewable energy projects. Warren said her administration would set a goal of producing 10 percent of the nation's electric power from wind towers, solar farms, and other clean energy projects constructed offshore or on public lands.

Warren revealed the proposal in a blog post on Medium that laid out her plans for managing the public parks and vast swaths of land that the federal government manages. She said it would form part of her strategy for addressing climate change.

"It is wrong to prioritize corporate profits over the health and safety of our local communities," she wrote.

"And it's not enough to end our public lands' contribution to climate change. We have an enormous opportunity to make them a part of the climate solution, and for both economic and environmental reasons, we should take it."

Warren said she would also reinstate an Obama-era rule to prevent methane — a potent greenhouse gas — from escaping into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations on federal land.

The policy would mark a dramatic reversal from President Donald Trump's position. Trump has sought to increase drilling on public lands and open virtually all federal offshore areas to oil and gas exploration.

The Trump administration has overseen the rollback of dozens of environmental and energy regulations, including the methane rule.

Warren's plan goes further than measures taken by the Obama administration. President Barack Obama placed a moratorium on federal coal leasing — though not on oil and gas production — and sought to indefinitely block offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic.

Permitting for onshore oil and gas drilling was up nearly 40% in 2018, due in large part to expanded use of automated systems set in motion under Obama, according to a Reuters analysis.

In 2018, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management generated $1.1 billion in onshore oil and gas lease sales, nearly three times the previous annual record set in 2008. The previous year, the leases drummed up nearly $360 million, the second-highest total on record at the time.

Nearly half of the revenue goes to the states where land is leased. New Mexico accounted for the biggest lease sales in both 2017 and 2018.

Warren's vow to ban fossil fuel leasing comes as climate change becomes an increasingly prominent component of the Democratic platform. Freshmen Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's expansive Green New Deal has focused attention on the issue and sparked several proposals for federal climate strategies, including from Republicans