For Immediate Release, October 6, 2021
Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (951) 961-7972, [email protected]
Legal Petition Demands Biden Administration Stop Unlawful Fossil Fuel Projects
More Than 300 Groups Demand Halt to U.S. Army Corps Approvals
WASHINGTON— More than 380 environmental, public health, Indigenous, faith-based and community groups sent a legal petition today demanding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stop issuing permits, and revoke illegally and inappropriately issued permits, for fossil fuel infrastructure projects.
Coming in the wake of a massive oil pipeline leak off the Southern California coast, the petition calls on the Army Corps to immediately halt new permits for fossil fuel infrastructure and develop a rule that permanently ends their approval.
“This petition gives Biden the roadmap to keep his promises to address the climate emergency and advance environmental justice,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Biden doesn’t have to choose between doing what’s right on climate and following the law. He has to do both, and we’re showing him how.”
The petition outlines the Army Corps’ legal authority and responsibility to deny permits for fossil fuel infrastructure such as pipelines, import and export terminals, refineries and petrochemical plants. The Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 say the Army Corps may not issue any permit if it would be “contrary to the public interest.”
All fossil fuel projects meet that threshold for denial, the petition asserts, because of the reality of climate change and the projects’ harms to Indigenous rights and environmental justice. It points to science-based assessments that any new fossil fuel development will push the planet past a dangerous warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Permits under consideration by the Army Corps include a crude oil export terminal on the Texas Gulf Coast that would include hundreds of miles of pipelines and accommodate the world’s largest oil tankers, all in a storm-prone region that suffered dozens of leaks after Hurricane Ida.
“We are at a seminal moment in climate history where the issuing of permits to the fossil fuel industry is simply a license to pollute,” said John Beard, Jr., CEO of the Port Arthur Community Action Network. “Port Arthur is a prime example of industry’s disregard for people’s lives and health. We must act now to stop these permits or we will render our cities, and the only Earth we have, uninhabitable.”
In a hopeful sign, the Army Corps cited environmental justice as a reason for suspending its permit for the proposed Formosa Plastics Complex in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley.” The petition’s supporters and local activists want the permit permanently canceled, along with others like it.
“Fossil fuel infrastructure projects are killing us with their poison, then fueling the storms that wreck our homes,” said Sharon Lavigne with RISE St. James, a plaintiff in the lawsuit that led to Formosa Plastics’ permit being suspended. “I lost two neighbors to cancer, killed by toxic fossil fuel pollution. President Biden can end these heartless projects, including Formosa Plastics, with the stroke of his pen. He must act now so that one day we’ll have clean air and won’t be sick.”
The petition also calls for permits already issued to be revoked. For example, the Army Corps approved the controversial Enbridge Line 3 oil-pipeline replacement project, which just went into operation despite protests from Indigenous leaders and allies.
“President Biden, do your job,” said Gaagigeyaashiik (Dawn Goodwin), cofounder of the RISE Coalition and White Earth Tribe member organizing against the Line 3 pipeline. “Protect our homelands, that is what this is all about. We need to protect what we have left for future generations.”
The petition also demands that the Army Corps revoke Nationwide Permit 12, which is used by fossil fuel developers to avoid obtaining individual project permits. It’s been used for destructive pipelines, including the now-cancelled Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The petition delivery comes days before a planned week of action at the White House by Indigenous, climate and climate justice groups, demanding that Biden choose sides: People vs. Fossil Fuels. The Oct. 11-15 mobilization calls on Biden to immediately stop fossil fuel project approvals and declare a national climate emergency.
The petition and the Build Back Fossil Free campaign build on two model executive orders and the Climate President Action Plan that identify the top executive actions Biden can take to confront the climate emergency. Together, the Climate President proposals are supported by more than 700 organizations nationwide.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.