Press Release

Senators Welch, Sanders, and Merkley Introduce Legislation to Delink Renewable Energy Development from Oil and Gas Leasing Requirements

Oct 5, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C.Senators Peter Welch (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) today introduced legislation to de-link the development of renewable energy from oil and gas leasing. The Comprehensive Legislation for Expanding and Advancing Nonrestrictive (CLEAN) Energy Act and the Nonrestrictive Offshore Wind (NOW) Act will help the United States address the climate crisis, protect public lands and coasts, and expand new clean energy jobs and projects across the United States.    

“For too long, Congress has done the heavy lifting for the fossil fuel industry. The Inflation Reduction Act takes major steps to harness the power of clean energy through unprecedented investment and job creation, but right now this powerful industry is holding us back from making true progress. It’s time we delink oil and gas from renewable energy development, so we can reach our full clean energy potential,” said Sen. Welch.  

“Tethering the expansion of renewable energy to more fossil fuels is a problem of planet-destroying proportions. Our health, planet, and communities are at risk. The planet cannot afford new fossil leases,” said Sen. Merkley

“At a time when the existential threat of climate change is devastating communities across the country and the world, we have got to do everything possible to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry – not give billions of taxpayer dollars away in corporate welfare to an industry that has been destroying our planet,” said Sen. Sanders.

Under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Department of the Interior is required to issue a lease sale of onshore oil and gas within 120 days of approving new clean energy projects. The IRA also prevents the Department from approving new onshore solar and wind projects if fewer than two million acres of federal land were offered in oil and gas leases during the year prior. 

The IRA also requires the Department to issue a lease sale for offshore oil and gas within one year of an offshore wind lease and prevents the Department from approving new offshore wind projects if fewer than 60 million acres have been offered in offshore oil and gas leases during the year prior. 

Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA-37) introduced the CLEAN Energy Act and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) introduced the NOW Act in the House of Representatives.  

“I am glad to see Senators Welch, Sanders, and Merkley introducing the Senate companion to the CLEAN Energy Act as we work together to battle the climate crisis,” said Rep. Kamlager-Dove. “This legislation will allow us to imagine a world beyond Big Oil and Gas and advance toward America’s clean energy future. Racial and environmental justice are inextricably linked, and Black communities and communities of color have had to disproportionately suffer the health impacts of dirty air and water and other pollutants from fossil fuels for too long. This legislation will put us on the path toward a sustainable, climate-smart future while providing jobs, protecting the health of communities, and bolstering our nation’s economy.”

“The NOW Act builds upon the record-breaking climate investments made last year and puts us further down the path of moving beyond a reliance on fossil fuels and toward a more sustainable future,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. “The climate crisis is a national emergency for the United States and disproportionately impacts our most vulnerable communities, including indigenous communities and communities of color. In the midst of this crisis, there is no reason that we should require more oil and gas drilling as a prerequisite for building renewables. This legislation will help end the stranglehold oil and gas has kept on our country while enabling good, union jobs in renewable energy development.” 

The bill text for the CLEAN Energy Act can be found here

The bill text for the NOW Act can be found here