In ‘Break Free From Fossil Fuels’ Protest, Colorado Tells President Obama to ‘Keep It in the Ground’
Released by Valerie Love (Center for Biological Diversity), Jason Schwartz (Greenpeace), and Virali Modi-Parekh (Rainforest Action Network)
Hundreds of community, climate and anti-fracking activists today protested a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction at the Holiday Inn in Lakewood, Colorado. About 300 activists from Colorado and surrounding states rallied outside the hotel, chanting, singing, carrying signs, banners and art. They then engaged in peaceful direct action to interrupt the auction proceedings.
The protest was organized by a coalition of groups led by local Colorado activists. It was part of a larger “Keep It in the Ground” movement calling on President Obama to halt new federal fossil fuel leases on public lands and waters, a move that could keep half of American fossil fuel reserves from being burned, and protect these precious resources for generations to come. Activists from across the country attended today’s action, showing solidarity with local activists and drawing attention to a rising public-lands movement in western states that has been challenging BLM auctions for the past six months.
“Colorado and the public lands of the West are being treated as a sacrifice zone, with corporations profiting from the destruction of our communities, the landscape and the people’s health,” said Remy, a Boulder-based artist and activist with First Seven Design Labs. “As an indigenous person, the language behind keep it in the ground has been passed down to me from my elders. It’s about respecting the land and the Earth, and it’s about justice for people who are being denied it.”
Colorado’s public and private lands have been pockmarked by oil and gas wells in recent years. The state has also seen firsthand many of the devastating impacts of climate change, including massive flooding and extended, more intense fire seasons. The action comes just days after the Colorado Supreme Court denied community authority to regulate fracking.
“When our political systems fail us, direct action is one of the few tools we have left,” said Colorado activist and Greenpeace campaigner Diana Best. “People here are finished with industry and government making us sick, polluting our communities and destroying the land we love. Today you can see that the resistance in Colorado is powerful and a key part of the escalating national fight.”
“Enough is enough,” said Valerie Love of the Center for Biological Diversity. “President Obama has the power to stop new fossil fuel leases on our public lands, and he must do so to avoid climate catastrophe. We have protested at every fossil fuel lease sale over the past six months, and we will not stop until this destructive giveaway of public lands and waters is ended.”
The coalition, made up of local groups CREED, FrackFree Colorado, Colorado 350, Colorado Rising Tide, First Seven Design Labs and many others, and supported by national groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Radical Arts Healing Collective, WildEarth Guardians and 350.org, was brought together as part of the Break Free global month of action. It is now turning its attention to Saturday, May 14, when hundreds of community members will converge in Thornton, Colo., to call for an end to fracking development in communities and on private lands. They will be joined by journalist and activist Bill McKibben.
Some 67 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 additional 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 (I-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 2015, in response to protests, the BLM has postponed oil and gas leasing auctions in Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, DC.
Download the September “Keep It in the Ground” letter to President Obama.
Download Grounded: The President’s Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground (this report details the legal authorities under which a president can halt new federal fossil fuel leases).
Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels (this report quantifies the volume and potential greenhouse gas emissions of remaining federal fossil fuels) and The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet.
Download Public Lands, Private Profits (this report details the corporations profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands).
Download WildEarth Guardians’ formal petition calling on the Department of the Interior to study the climate impacts of the federal oil and gas leasing program and to place a moratorium on new leasing until completed that study is completed.
Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s formal petition calling on the Obama administration to halt all new offshore fossil fuel leasing.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.