Locals and Activists Ask Feds to End Fossil Fuel Auctions for Good

Micah Parkin, 350 Colorado, (504) 258-1247
Ruth Breech, Rainforest Action Network, (415) 238-1766
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 437-7663
Diana Best, Greenpeace, (415) 265-8122

Locals and Activists Ask Feds to End Fossil Fuel Auctions for Good

Local Residents and Activists Turn up the Pressure to
Permanently End Public Land Fossil Fuel Auctions

DENVER— Dozens of climate activists staged a climate rally outside of the Bureau of Land Management’s office in Lakewood, Colo., calling for an immediate end to fossil fuel development on public lands. The group also delivered a letter to regional BLM Director Ruth Welch, asking her to cancel all future fossil fuel lease auctions and to keep fossil fuels in the ground on public lands.

These “climate auctions” allow industry to bid on large swaths of public lands for drilling and fracking. The Bureau had originally scheduled an auction on this day; however, the sale had been postponed due to postponed due to lack of tribal consultation. To this end, the group delivered a letter on behalf of native groups and individuals also asking for an end to federal fossil fuel leasing. The rally today highlighted that delaying these auctions is not enough. It is time to end climate auctions for good to prevent catastrophic climate change and ensure a livable future for this and coming generations in Colorado.

The rally is part of the rapidly growing “Keep It in the Ground” movement calling on President Obama to define his climate legacy and stop new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans — a step that would keep up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution from escaping into the atmosphere. These auctions present a gross conflict between the administration’s climate pledges and an energy policy that allows fuels that should be considered “unburnable” to be extracted from public lands. Federal fossil fuels — those that the President controls — should be the first taken off the table to mitigate climate damage. Similar “Keep it in the Ground” protests are planned for upcoming lease sales in Reno, Salt Lake City and New Orleans.

Groups participating in today’s rally included: 350 Colorado, 350 Fort Collins, Center for Biological Diversity, CO People’s Alliance, Direct FRACK-tion, Earth Guardians, Flatirons Political Art, Food & Water Watch, Frack-Free CO, Greenpeace USA, Indigenous People’s Power Project, Rainforest Action Network, WildEarth Guardians and others.

Statements from Individuals and Groups:

“At a time when countries around the world have agreed that we must keep the global temperature rise under 2 degree C to avoid devastating climate change and scientists tell us that means keeping 80% of fossil fuels in the ground, it’s clear that the Obama administration’s only responsible course of action is to stop auctioning off public lands for oil and gas fracking – and we intend to hold them to that,” said Micah Parkin with 350 Colorado.

“Fossil fuel companies make millions off public land leases while wreaking environmental destruction, harming people’s health, violating Indigenous rights, and passing off massive clean up costs to taxpayers,” said Ruth Breech, from Rainforest Action Network. “President Obama should not just take a closer look at these corporate giveaways, but end them altogether.”

“It’s not enough to keep postponing these oil and gas lease auctions, they need to be halted permanently,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “If we are to have any hope of meeting our climate change goals, the 450 billion tons of potential carbon emissions on public lands and waters must remain in the ground.”

“With each postponement, massive amounts of publicly owned fossil fuels stay in the ground a little longer, and the movement to keep them there permanently gets stronger. Now, the Obama administration must move quickly to stop all fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters so we can focus on building the renewable energy economy,” said Diana Best with Greenpeace, USA.

“Our public lands, our communities, and our climate should no longer take a backseat to the demands of the fracking industry,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardains’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “We appreciate the Obama Administration’s exercise of restraint here in Colorado, but it’s time for a absolute moratorium on leasing our publicly owned oil and gas.”

“Native peoples are at the forefront of climate change. We have a long history with these lands, and we are demanding they not be sacrificed to the oil and gas industry.” Kim Howe, Diné Nation, Dooda Fracking.

Sixty-seven million acres of U.S. public lands are already leased to dirty fossil fuel industries, an area 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park, and containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. Nearly one quarter of all U.S. climate pollution already comes from burning fossil fuels from public lands. Remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

In September, more than 400 organizations called on President Obama to end federal fossil fuel leasing. In November, Senators Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (D-Vt.) and others introduced legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Last month, the Obama Administration placed a moratorium on federal coal leasing while the Department of the Interior studies its impacts on taxpayers and the planet. Since November, the BLM has canceled or postponed oil and gas leasing auctions in Utah, Montana, Washington, D.C. and Wyoming.

Download a copy of the letter to Director Ruth Welch here.

Download the September “Keep it in the Ground” letter to Obama here.

Download Public Lands, Private Profits, a report detailing the corporations profiting from fossil fuel extraction on public lands, here.

Download Grounded: The President’s Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground here. This report details the legal authorities with which a president can halt new federal fossil fuel leases.

Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet here.