Green groups press Biden to declare climate emergency, offer draft executive order on oil leases

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A host of environmental groups is urging President-elect Joe Biden to declare a national climate emergency–a move that would grant him greater power to address the issue–and fulfill his pledge to ban new fossil fuel leases on public land.

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On Tuesday, a letter signed by 538 organizations offered Biden a draft executive order he could purportedly use on his first day to ban new fossil fuel leases.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which is spearheading the effort, previously sent a letter urging Biden to declare an emergency. The group has argued that doing so would expand Biden's powers so that he can quickly act to combat what it calls an "existential threat" posed by climate change.

"It opens up additional doors which will make it easier to address the climate crisis," CBD Government Affairs Director Brett Hartl told Fox News last week. An "action plan" from his group specifies that the president could reinstate a ban on crude oil exports and "promote rapid clean energy development per emergency powers."

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Biden's inaugural team did not respond to Fox News' request for comment. While it's unclear how exactly Biden will act, Berkeley law professor Dan Farber has outlined a number of ways he could purportedly take action under an emergency declaration.

In an article last year, Farber wrote that a declaration could affect certain clauses in oil leases, and allow the president to expand battery or electrical vehicle production.

"Another provision allows the President to extend loan guarantees to critical industries during national emergencies. (50 USC 4531)," he wrote. "This could be used to support renewable energy more generally."

He added that the transportation secretary could have the power to restrict automobile and truck use to decrease emissions while the president's international emergency authority could allow him to regulate financial activitiy involving entitites "trafficking in fossil fuels."

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Part of Tuesday's draft order instructs the Interior Department to "immediately revise the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program in a manner that halts new offshore oil and gas lease sales and provides a determination that national energy needs require a prompt transition away from fossil fuels."

"Within 90 days, the Secretary of the Interior shall prepare a plan to phase out oil and gas activities on the Outer Continental Shelf, including a ban on drilling new wells," it reads. Under the order, the Interior Department would also begin a comprehensive review of leases and allow the cancellation of those that were issued "improperly."

Steve Milloy of JunkScience.com told Fox News that the policy could kill jobs and hurt the U.S. economy.

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"Joe Biden promised on the campaign trail that, as part of his anti-fracking program, he would ban new oil and gas leases on public-owned lands," he said.

"Radical green groups have signaled their intent to hold him to that promise by sending him a suggested executive order announcing that policy. If he fulfills his campaign promise, Biden will kill jobs and hurt the economies, mostly in Republican states in the West. Energy prices will increase elsewhere."

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