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A Road Map to Net-Zero Emissions for Fossil Fuel Development on Public Lands

September 2020

Citation: ELR 10734

Author: Jamie Gibbs Pleune, John C. Ruple, and Nada Wolff Culver

In producing over 274 million barrels of oil, 3.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas, and 302 million tons of coal each year, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) decisions significantly impact U.S. and global greenhouse gas emissions; fossil fuels produced on federal land account for almost 24 percent of all U.S. CO2 emissions. This Article provides a legal road map for BLM to require all new oil and gas development to achieve net-zero emissions as a condition of operation. It argues that BLM has a legal duty to mitigate the risk of catastrophic climate change in its permitting decisions. The road map is based on the existing legal structure and explains how BLM can begin charting a course toward carbon-neutral energy development without waiting for congressional action.

Jamie Gibbs Pleune is a Wallace Stegner Center Legal Fellow, S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. John C. Ruple is Professor of Law (research) and Wallace Stegner Center Legal Fellow, S.J. Quinney College of Law. Nada Wolff Culver is Vice President, Public Lands and Senior Policy Counsel, at the National Audubon Society.

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