The U.S. Geological Survey determined in 2018 that fossil fuel production from the public lands and Outer Continental Shelf of the United States accounted for nearly 24 percent of U.S. contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. The development of these resources is entirely within the control of the U.S. government as their owner. While a variety of public land laws provide for the leasing of these mineral interests for extraction, Congress retains the authority to alter these laws and change the leasing regime, which is administered by the Secretary of the Interior.
The model law below provides for ending new leasing of these federally owned resources in both the onshore and offshore environments, and implements the following recommendation from Chapter 24, Appendix B of Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States 644 (Michael Gerrard & John Dernbach eds., ELI 2019): the federal government should “stop leasing its land for fossil fuel extraction.”
The model law is based partially on S. 750 and H.R. 2242, 115th Congress (the “Keep It in the Ground Act of 2017”), but differs because of those bills’ inconsistent characterizations of the provisions of the existing statutory provisions governing lease suspensions, cancellations, and extensions, and their use of terms that differ from existing law. A further discussion of these differences can be found in the introductory memorandum to the model law.