Stop the sale of our public lands

posted by Ruth Breech

Yesterday in Wyoming, some of the world’s richest dirty energy companies bought up 76,000 acres of public lands to mine, drill and frack for private profit. I rallied with environmentalists from across the state to say ENOUGH: end the corporate giveaway.

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Will you stand with us? Tell President Obama: end oil, gas and coal leasing on public lands!

Fossil fuel companies already control more than 65 million acres of public lands and coastal waters—55 times the size of Grand Canyon National Park.1 Every quarter, they grab more land at small events, far from the media spotlight. The Wyoming auction was at a Holiday Inn in Cheyenne, with barely 15 people in a conference room.

At yesterday’s auction, one of the state’s biggest landholders was at it again: Anadarko, a Texas oil company with a low profile but a dirty track record. Last year, Anadarko and subsidiaries saw a jaw-dropping $5.15 billion fine to clean up toxic waste sites across the country. At the time, it was the biggest environmental settlement ever by the Justice Department, even bigger than BP’s initial fine after the 2010 Gulf oil disaster.2

Our public lands are not for private profit for the likes of Anadarko. Tell President Obama: no more oil, gas and coal leasing on public lands!

Fossil fuel extraction hurts our communities—and it wrecks delicate ecosystems. In Wyoming, the species that’s most at risk from the oil and gas industry’s current plans is the beautiful—and endangered—sage grouse.3 Leasing more land means bulldozers, drilling rigs, and strip mining in the last remnants of prime sage grouse habitat. That means even more massive population declines for this rare and irreplaceable bird.

And this broken leasing system kills the climate. Mining, drilling, and fracking for coal, oil, and gas on publicly owned lands accounts for an astonishing one-quarter of the United States’ climate change emissions.4 Ahead of the crucial Paris climate talks, President Obama has been talking a good game on global warming. But it’s time for action. By ending fossil fuel leasing on public lands, he could keep a staggering 450 billion tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere — almost half of all potential emissions from remaining U.S. fossil fuels.5 On the other hand, the president’s Climate Action Plan, if fully implemented, would keep less than 6 billion tons of carbon out of the air.6 If President Obama wants a truly lasting climate legacy, he should end fossil fuel leasing on public lands.

Tell President Obama: no more oil, gas and coal leasing on public lands!

In the next six weeks, the federal government is giving away more than a quarter million acres of public lands across the country: starting yesterday  in Wyoming; next week in Colorado, and after that in Utah, Nevada, and Washington DC. This beautiful land is going for bargain-basement prices—as little as $2 an acre—to some of the world’s biggest and wealthiest dirty energy companies. It’s time to end corporate control of our land and its resources. Stop the giveaway of our climate and our communities’ health. 


Sources:

1. “Climate activists to White House: Ban fossil fuel extraction”, Tony Dokoupil, MSNBC, Sep. 15, 2015
http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/climate-activists-white-house-ban-fossil-fuel-extraction

2. “Anadarko Petroleum settles U.S.-wide clean-up case for $5.15 billion,” Nick Brown, Reuters, Apr. 3, 2014
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/04/us-anadarko-pete-tronox-settlement-idUSBREA321PW20140404

3. “BLM mulls energy development in sage grouse habitat,” Gloria Dickie, High Country News, Oct. 30, 2015
https://www.hcn.org/articles/blm-mulls-energy-development-in-sage-grouse-habitat

4. Public Lands, Private Profits, Rainforest Action Network, September 2015
http://ran.org/publiclandsprivateprofits

5”. The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels”, EcoShift Consulting, Center for Biological Diversity, and Friends of the Earth, August 2015 
http://www.ecoshiftconsulting.com/wp-content/uploads/Potential-Greenhouse-Gas-Emissions-U-S-Federal-Fossil-Fuels.pdf

6. “President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: 2nd Anniversary Progress Report”, The White House, June 2015
https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/cap_progress_report_final_w_cover.pdf