By Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders on Wednesday unveiled a climate-change bill that would crack down on fossil fuel extraction, a move sure to please activists who want party front-runner Hillary Clinton to make the same commitment.
Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, wants to halt new leases for fossil fuel extraction on public lands and for offshore drilling in the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. He would prohibit drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean.
Sanders pushed for the proposal at a rally at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, alongside environmental leaders such as Bill McKibben, co-founder of the grassroots climate group 350.org.
The bill, which Sanders introduced with a fellow Democrat, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, will face fierce opposition in the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress and is unlikely to become law.
But it should help Sanders appeal to environmental activists and could pressure Clinton, who has said that abruptly halting extraction on federal lands would disrupt the U.S. economy.
"You can't talk the talk...and at the same time say we are going to extract," Sanders said on Wednesday, adding that the U.S. must protect workers as it moves away from fossil fuels.
Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist, has been Clinton's main rival to be the party's nominee for president in the November 2016 elections.
His liberal stances on the environment, trade and more have pressured Clinton to move to the left on those issues. Still, polls have shown the former U.S. secretary of state appeared to gain ground against Sanders after a strong showing in October.
Climate activists want Clinton to commit to be tougher on environmental issues if she is elected president.
Clinton told an activist at a New Hampshire town hall in July that it would be irresponsible to abruptly halt oil, natural gas and coal extraction on federal lands. She instead called for phasing it out and increasing fees on companies operating on public lands.
"We still have to run our economy, we still have to turn on the lights," Clinton said.
Clinton in August opposed Arctic oil exploration, putting her at odds with the Obama administration, which had just given Royal Dutch Shell PLC final approval to resume drilling off the coast of northern Alaska.
For more on the 2016 U.S. presidential race and to learn about the undecided voters who determine elections, visit the Reuters website.
(Reporting by Amanda Becker; Editing by Emily Stephenson and David Gregorio)