March 7, 2022

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce today to review and ban all fossil fuel imports from Russia — including oil, coal, petroleum gas products and petcoke — under the U.S. Trade Act because of the national security threat those imports pose to the United States.

The United States imports a significant amount of oil and other fossil fuels from Russia. The revenues from fossil fuel exports provide Russia with the hard currency it needs to maintain its economy and military.

“President Biden already has the power to cut off Russian oil and other dirty fossil fuels,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center. “Rather than waiting on Congress, President Biden should use his powers under the U.S. Trade Act and act right now. It’s beyond self-evident that whenever the United States purchases Russian fossil fuels, it empowers Putin’s atrocities.”

Section 232 of the U.S. Trade Act requires that the Secretary of Commerce immediately initiate an investigation to determine the impacts on national security when it receives a petition such as this.

Although the law gives the Department of Commerce up to 270 days to provide a report to the president as to whether or not Russian fossil fuels harm national security, the investigation can also be done expeditiously — even within a matter of days or hours.

“If we can’t stop the flow of dirty energy funding a murderous dictator, then what does that say?” said Snape. “Getting off Russian oil is necessary for our national security, it would strengthen democracies around the world, and it moves us closer to phasing out all fossil fuels, as we need to do to maintain a livable planet.”

In 2021 alone, the U.S. imported from Russia:

  • 48 million barrels of crude petroleum oil,
  • More than 170 million barrels of refined oil products,
  • More than 300,000 metric tons of coal,
  • More than 400,000 metric tons of petroleum coke,
  • Significant quantities of propane, butane and ethylene.

Today’s petition is consistent with the call by members of Congress and more than 1,000 groups for President Biden to declare climate change a national emergency, which would give the president more power to act aggressively in fighting the climate crisis. President Biden could also restrict or ban the import of Russian fossil fuels through emergency action under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.