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No New Fossil Fuel Leasing: The Only Path to Maximizing Social Welfare in the Climate Change Era

August 2019

Citation: ELR 10741

Author: Rebecca Fischer and Daniel Timmons

In Federal Lands and Fossil Fuels: Maximizing Social Welfare in Federal Energy Leasing, Prof. Jayni Foley Hein assesses inefficiencies in the federal fossil fuel leasing program that lead to the over-extraction of fossil fuels at great societal cost. In recognition of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI's) role in stewarding federal lands for the long-term benefit of the American people, Hein proposes that DOI should adopt a policy of seeking to maximize social welfare or “net public benefits” in its leasing decisions. The article suggests that such reforms could significantly increase revenues for states and the federal government, while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental costs. Hein provides valuable, practical suggestions for how DOI could utilize strategic lease planning and make changes to its royalty rates and bidding processes that would help the agency account for the social cost of carbon. Addressing the current climate crisis, however, requires much more than marginal changes to royalty rates and the leasing process. That said, Professor Hein’s proposed reforms—if fully implemented—could potentially have significant on-the-ground impacts.

Rebecca Fischer is a Climate & Energy Program Attorney at WildEarth Guardians in their Denver, Colorado, office. Daniel Timmons is a Staff Attorney at WildEarth Guardians in their Santa Fe, New Mexico, office.

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