Clean and Safe Energy


80% of fossil fuels need to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic warming.

Our climate is at a tipping point. To avoid catastrophic warming, scientists estimate that approximately 80% of proven fossil fuel resources need to stay in the ground. At a time where we need to rapidly transition to clean energy, the last thing we should do is lock ourselves into decades of continued fossil fuel extraction. Furthermore, the extraction of oil, gas and coal all have devastating impacts on our water resources and the communities that rely on them for drinking water, jobs, and ways of life.

Waterkeeper Alliance works with Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates around the world to reduce the extraction of dirty fuels like coal, oil and gas. We help grow the global “Keep It in the Ground” movement, which demands that governments stop facilitating dangerous fossil fuel extraction with public subsidies and permits. Organizations and communities around the world are challenging the sale of publicly owned fossil fuels as a critical means of preventing runaway climate change. From the Lock the Gate movement in Australia to the Keep it in the Ground movement in the U.S., civil society groups are filing administrative appeals, lawsuits and petitions, engaging in direct action, creating strategic media opportunities and organizing at the grassroots level.

Waterkeeper Alliance has worked to stop fossil fuel extraction impacts in China, Colombia, and the United States. Our research and water testing has shown that coal mining is the main threat to Indonesian food security. Coal mining leaves the land scarred and barren, water catchments choked and polluted, and groundwater depressed.

In the United States, the Trump administration has committed itself to reviving the dying coal industry. One way it hopes to boost this dirty, uneconomical source of energy is by once again opening up our public lands for companies to mine coal on the cheap. Similarly, the administration is expediting the leasing and permitting process for new oil and gas wells, especially in public lands in the western United States. In our publicly-owned offshore areas, the administration is pushing to allow drilling in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time and expand it in the Pacific Ocean, the Arctic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Our public lands and offshore areas should be managed to truly benefit the public as a whole. Allowing increased coal, oil and gas extraction from public lands and offshore will threaten countless watersheds and coastal areas with fossil fuel pollution. It will also further perpetuate the United State’s reliance on fossil fuels, endangering our climate to increase fossil fuel company profits.

Waterkeeper Alliance partners with Waterkeeper Organization and Affiliates around the world to stop this assault on our public lands, waterways, and future by:

(1) Joining partners in challenging the leasing of public lands and offshore areas to fossil fuel interests, slowing down or stopping the process;
(2) Participating in the permitting and environmental review processes to force the government and companies to account for the full impact of their activities; and,
(3) Taking companies to court when they violate the law and damage our shared resources.

Halting Fossil Fuel Leases

The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico provides a clear example of the devastation that offshore drilling can bring to ocean and coastal ecosystems and economies. In 2016, Waterkeeper Alliance partnered with Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates along the Atlantic Coast to push back against proposed plans to open the area to offshore drilling for the first time. While the Obama administration responded to widespread opposition by removing the Atlantic Ocean from the areas in the 5-year offshore drilling leasing plan, it is expected that the Trump administration will attempt to allow drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, and expand it in the Pacific Ocean, the Arctic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Waterkeeper Alliance will fight these efforts and opposes any expansion of offshore drilling.

Waterkeeper Alliance joined partners in filing an administrative protest challenging a federal decision to offer more than 100,000 acres of federal public land in northern Colorado — with over 25,000 acres in the headwaters of the Colorado River — for leasing by the oil and gas industry. The leasing decision, being pushed by the Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over local community opposition, threatened some of Colorado’s most critical waterways, endangered wildlife species, and treasured and scenic landscapes. Within days of that filing, we had a partial victory when BLM backed down and withdrew more than a quarter of that acreage from its scheduled June 2017 lease sale, alleviating some of the biggest threats to the Colorado headwaters and the drinking water supplies of several adjacent towns.

Taking Companies to Court

In 2010, Waterkeeper Alliance caught two of the biggest mountaintop-removal mining companies in Kentucky faking water pollution monitoring reports, concealing rampant illegal pollution discharges. Our work has exposed a massive cover-up of water pollution in Kentucky, securing important due process rights for citizens to participate in the oversight of the coal industry.

Waterkeeper Alliance, along with Apalachicola Riverkeeper and Louisiana Environmental Action Network, brought a lawsuit against Taylor Energy in 2012 for an oil leak from destroyed wells in the Gulf of Mexico that had been ongoing since 2004, yet had been kept largely secret from the public. In 2015, we signed a settlement agreement with Taylor Energy which required the company to publicly disclose what it has done to stop the oil leak and no longer broadly object to the release of information about the leak and efforts to contain it. We continue to gather information on the oil leak, Taylor Energy’s response and enforcement efforts through Freedom of Information Act requests and share them with the public and scientists hoping to better understand what is happening at the site and the unavoidable adverse impacts of offshore oil drilling.