EPA Chief: It’s Not ‘Extreme’ To Ban Coal, Oil, Gas Production On Federal Lands

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said it wouldn’t be “extreme” for the government to ban all coal, oil and natural gas production on federal lands, but was quick to add governments had broader things to consider in crafting energy policies.

“I don’t think it’s extreme,” Gina McCarthy said in a recent interview with Bill Loveless of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “I think it’s a valid position for agencies and entities that are solely looking at environmental issues.”

McCarthy’s remarks were in response to a question from Loveless asking her if it’s an “extreme” position for environmentalists to call for a ban on coal, oil and gas production on federal lands.

“So I mean do you think that it’s extreme then for those that might say, ‘Well let’s stop. Let’s keep all the oil and gas that’s in the federal property in that property going forward. Stop it from being produced. Same goes for offshore Alaska. Stop it from being produced because it’s just going to contribute to the problem, the environmental problem,” Loveless asked.

“Do you think that’s an extreme position, not a good one?” Loveless added.

“That’s not what — what frankly that’s not even what I do,” McCarthy said after she said it’s not extreme for some agencies to want to ban fossil fuel production. “I have obligations under the law to look at costs and many times and what’s reasonable and what’s appropriate, and we’re going to keep doing that.”

“I think the president has broad considerations,” she said, adding that past international agreements on global warming have failed because “we were absolutely trying to do to much too soon.”

“The last thing I’m gonna wanna do is to go out and do more without considering how we continue that steady progress moving forward,” McCarthy said.

Environmentalists have been urging the Obama administration to stop companies from extracting fossil fuels from federal lands in the name of saving the Earth from global warming. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s running for president, has supported a complete ban on fossil fuel production on federal lands.

Environmentalist pleas for a ban on fossil fuel production come as United Nations delegates are preparing to meet in Paris to hash out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol — an agreement to cut global carbon dioxide emissions. Eco-activists argue banning fossil fuel production would set an example for the rest of the world to follow.

“We call on you to make our nation the first to commit to keeping all of its remaining, unleased public fossil fuels in the ground, thereby challenging other nations to do the same,” a coalition of environmentalists wrote in a September letter to the White House. “Such leadership is necessary to ensure a livable climate and planet for both present and future generations.”

But McCarthy was careful to stress President Barack Obama had to take broader considerations on energy issues than environmentalists, like “how do we keep the lights on, how do we keep it affordable, how we keep it consistent with job growth in the U.S. in a growing economy.”

McCarthy questioned the political expediency of moving too quickly to ban fossil fuels from being taken out of federal lands.

“While just from an environmental lens, you may have a vision of what we should do when,” she said. “We have to look at the law, we have to look at science.”

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