Virali Modi-Parekh, Rainforest Action Network, (510) 747-8476, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, (504) 452-4909, email@example.com
Tom Brown, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 498-3482, firstname.lastname@example.org
Demonstrators Drown Out Oil Lease Auction at New Orleans Superdome
In Historic Rally, Gulf Residents, National Allies Demand End to
New Leases for Fossil Fuel Development in Gulf of Mexico
NEW ORLEANS— Hundreds of singing and chanting Gulf Coast residents packed an auction of federal offshore fossil fuel leases at the New Orleans Superdome today in a historic call to end the practice of giving away our public waters to oil and gas corporations.
This action, opposing the sale of federal fossil fuel leases, was the first of its kind for Gulf residents protesting the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management. Inside the auction room, participants chanted “Not for sale.” They held the stage of the auction for its entirety — drowning out the auction process and telling Big Oil and Gas representatives that Gulf citizens want a cleaner, sustainable future. The protest ended peacefully with the group filing out after the government agency and corporate representatives completed the process and left the building.
“It was joyous to see residents from across the Gulf, some with tears streaming down their faces, proclaiming this as a blessing. We’ve been restrained in our approach up to this point, so to watch our communities take this step of celebratory nonviolent direct action, to say that we are no longer going to be a sacrifice zone, is an incredibly powerful statement,” said Ramsey Sprague, president of Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition.
The group also marched around the Superdome, carrying almost 600 feet of banners telling the story of extreme fossil fuel extraction and exploitation and promoting a greener, more equitable future. Echoing activities and messages from Paris for systemic change, the group staged an art action in which they put down the banners and lay down for an aerial photo directly in front of the main entrance to the Superdome.
“We’re out here rallying against some of the biggest corporations in the world. To make our message heard, we’ve created this spectacle using large-scale art, representing the diversity of community voices in this movement and the multitude of frontline people dealing with impacts of fossil fuels and climate change — people that can’t be here today. With this art action, we are amplifying their voices as well,” said Remy, a street artivist with First Seven Design Labs.
Today’s lease sale of 43 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico — an area one and a half times the size of the state of Louisiana — is the first since the Obama administration unveiled a five-year offshore drilling plan that protects the Atlantic but leaves the Gulf and Arctic open to dirty and dangerous fossil fuel extraction projects. Last week groups sent a letter to Obama asking to immediately cancel this auction, as these sales contribute significantly to global carbon emissions. Offshore drilling also threatens the well-being of Gulf Coast communities and wildlife. There are more than 5,000 active federal oil and gas leases, most of which are in the Gulf. In addition to ending new leases, Gulf residents also demand that the industry create at least 1,000 jobs to address its aging infrastructure and toxic legacy, particularly in communities of color.
Fighting new offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico, long an epicenter of the fossil fuel industry, represents a new front for the environmental movement. The Superdome rally builds off the momentum of the national Keep It in the Ground movement, which has held similar actions across the country over the past year. President Obama has the authority to halt all new fossil fuel leases on public lands and waters and should move this forward quickly to uphold promises made during the Paris Climate talks.
The movement has significant victories to date, including the recent win by Atlantic coast residents to protect their shore in the five-year offshore drilling plan. Last month, Obama placed a moratorium on federal coal leasing to study its impacts on taxpayers and the planet. Since November, in response to protests, the BLM has postponed oil and gas leasing auctions in Utah, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, D.C. Details on the Superdome event and Gulf organizing effort can be found at www.nonewleases.org.