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'This Is a Big Deal': Warren Vows to Ban New Leases for Fossil Fuel Drilling Offshore and on Public Lands

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks into a megaphone after joining striking Stop & Shop workers on April 12 in Somerville, Massachusetts. Scott Eisen / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Environmental activists and advocacy groups praised Sen. Elizabeth Warren Monday after she promised that if she is elected president in 2020, she will ban new fossil fuel extraction leases for federally controlled lands and waters.


"It is wrong to prioritize corporate profits over the health and safety of our local communities," the Massachusetts Democrat wrote on Medium. "That's why on my first day as president, I will sign an executive order that says no more drilling — a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands."

"This is a really important stand to take," 350.org cofounder Bill McKibben tweeted Monday.

He thanked the senator her new policy proposal, which focuses on "keeping our public lands in public hands, and maintaining and preserving existing lands," as well as "making our public lands part of the climate solution — not the problem."

"This is a big deal," said author and activist Naomi Klein. "We can't only talk about the things we want to add — millions of new jobs in renewables, efficiency, transit, green public housing. All that's great. But we gotta be willing to be honest about what we have to subtract too."

Celebrating Warren's "bold plan" on Twitter Monday, both 350 Action and Greenpeace USA noted the pressure it puts on other candidates in the crowded Democratic field.

"Americans want our next president to be a real climate leader, and candidates are listening," tweeted 350 Action. "Who's next?"

A cosponsor of the Green New Deal resolution currently before Congress, Warren was one of only three 2020 Democratic candidates — along with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) — who received checkmarks across the board on 350 Action's 2020 climate policy scorecard, released in late March.

The unveiling of Warren's public lands policy follows a series of other bold proposals from the presidential hopeful. She also has put forward plans to offset tax loopholes exploited by large U.S. corporations; establish nationwide universal childcare; help family farmers compete with agricultural giants; and break up major technology companies.

Warren's approach to managing public lands comes in stark contrast to that of the Trump administration, which has gutted environmental protection rules and worked to expand fossil fuel extraction offshore and on public lands. The senator was among those who opposed the recent confirmation of David Bernhardt, a former fossil fuel lobbyist, to head Trump's Interior Department.

The Trump administration currently poses a grave threat to public lands and waters "with its casual denial of science and apparent amnesia about massive crises like the BP oil spill," Warren argued in her Medium post — but "it doesn't have to be this way. We must not allow corporations to pillage our public lands and leave taxpayers to clean up the mess."

While Warren's vow to impose a moratorium on drilling leases was highly praised, that wasn't the only promise she made Monday.

"As president," Warren wrote:

  • I will set a goal of providing 10 percent of our overall electricity generation from renewable sources offshore or on public lands.
  • I will use my authorities under the Antiquities Act to restore protections to both [Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah] and any other national monuments targeted by this administration.
  • I will fully fund our public land management agencies and eliminate the infrastructure and maintenance backlog on our public lands in my first term.
  • I will recruit 10,000 young people and veterans to jumpstart a 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps — and increase the budget of AmeriCorps' one-year fellowship program to fund it. This will create job opportunities for thousands of young Americans caring for our natural resources and public lands, deepening their lifelong relationship with the great outdoors.

"The National Park Service is funded by taxpayers," she added, "and it's long past time to make entry into our parks free to ensure that visiting our nation's treasures is within reach for every American family."

Acknowledging that "a patchwork of ownership and access rights means that as many as 10 million acres in the West are not accessible to hunters, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts," she also committed to "unlocking 50 percent of these inaccessible acres, to grow our outdoor economy, help ease the burden on our most popular lands, and to provide a financial boost across rural America."

Though Warren's policy is national in nature, she also emphasized the importance of the Interior Department "meaningfully" incorporating local stakeholders, including tribal groups, in public lands management.

"America's public lands belong to all of us," she concluded. "We should start acting like it — expanding access, ending fossil fuel extraction, leveraging them as part of the climate solution, and preserving and improving them for our children and grandchildren. Together, we can manage and protect our public lands for generations to come."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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