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Despite Auction Postponement, Citizens Renew the Call to Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground
Eleanor Bravo, Food & Water Watch, 505-730-8474
Kendra Pinto, Counselor Chapter House, 773-710-3065
Paulette Blanchard, Absentee Shawnee, 913-687-3006
Santa Fe N.M.—Despite recent attempts to marginalize public voices, close to fifty advocates and indigenous leaders called for an end to new federal fossil fuel leasing at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) State Office in Santa Fe today, sharing stories of community members impacted by the Obama Administration’s controversial oil and gas leasing program.
Dozens of New Mexicans and frontline Navajo advocates were joined by the Protect Our Public Lands Tour—a caravan of Indigenous storytellers from fracking communities, who gave testimonials of personal fracking impacts in front of BLM’s New Mexico office on the day originally scheduled for the state oil and gas lease sale. Holding banners and signs, attendees will give speeches and deliver written statements, letters, reports, and petitions to BLM State Director Amy Leuders, reinforcing the call to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Comprised of Navajo, Arapaho, Pueblo of Kewa, and Oglala Lakota and Northern Cheyenne tribal members, the Protect Our Public Lands Tour is visiting frontline communities from California to Philadelphia, documenting stories of Native American community members facing impacts of fossil fuel extraction and working to transition to renewable energy. After Santa Fe, the tour stops in Lake Thunderbird, Ponca, and Tar Creek Oklahoma; Cahokia Mounds State Park, Illinois, and onto Philadelphia for the March for a Clean Energy Revolution—a July 24 gathering on the eve of the Democratic National Convention expected to draw thousands of participants calling for a ban on fracking, an end to federal fossil fuel leasing, and a plan for a just transition to renewable energy alternatives.
“Tribes throughout the U.S. find themselves under threat from a whole host of environmental harms brought about by the oil and gas industry - increased rates of cancer and death, more children than ever suffering from chronic medical conditions, like asthma and heart defects, to name a few,” said Protect Our Public Lands organizer Paulette Blanchard, Absentee Shawnee. “This theme is not new. Indigenous communities have been fighting for centuries, going back to colonial contact to protect our homelands, cultures, and lives, and still we fight. It is time we hold our politicians accountable for what is happening on Indigenous lands as well as public lands. It is about survival now.”
New Mexico Navajo residents are still reeling from last week’s fracking disaster that ignited six brand new WPX wells and 30 temporary storage tanks in a fire that burned for five days in the Chaco area. Community members also delivered a letter to BLM today, demanding an immediate investigation into the health and safety impacts of the WPX explosion.
“There are explosions in our skies and still no action to protect the people,” said Kendra Pinto, Community Outreach Intern at Counselor Chapter House. “Because BLM continues to approve fracking permits without consideration to community impacts, we are forced to live in an industrialized frack site which feels like a war zone. Our families are sick, our skies are blackened, but still industry tells us these activities are safe. How many more fires and sick children will it take before we stop this fracking once and for all?”
More than 200 demonstrators protested at the last BLM oil and gas lease sale in April in Santa Fe. Facing growing climate protests, the Bureau of Land Management abruptly relocated its July 20 oil and gas lease sale from Santa Fe to Roswell, New Mexico. After activists protested the short notice in change of location, BLM postponed the sale of the 36 parcels covering 13,876 acres of public land to September 1 in Roswell.
“BLM may have postponed this auction, but delays don’t soothe the scars for already impacted communities,” said Rebecca Sobel, Climate & Energy Senior Campaigner at WildEarth Guardians. “It’s time the Obama Administration finally hear the voices of those suffering from oil and gas exploitation right here in New Mexico, and reconcile its controversial oil and gas leasing program with climate science and community needs. The President can prevent future disasters by halting new federal fossil fuel leases and safeguarding frontline communities across the country.”
Instead, the Obama administration and the fossil fuel industry are moving fossil fuel auctions online to avoid climate protests at future auctions. The first online auction for onshore oil and gas is slated for September 15 and today is the first day of registration for that auction. Thousands of people across the country, part of the growing “Keep it in the Ground” movement, have protested the auctions in recent months, causing some to be cancelled or postponed.
“Public lands should be preserved for the public good and should never be used for profit of the mega and damaging fossil fuel industry,” stressed Eleanor Bravo Southwest Organizer for Food & Water Watch. “Voices from all over this country must be heard in Philadelphia as the Democratic National Convention convenes later this week. No more fracking, keep fossil fuels in the ground, transition to renewables. Every acre of land dedicated for drilling makes an already grave situation worse.”
For Photos from WPX’s well fire Monday July 11: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wildearth_guardians/albums/72157668145615084
Some 67 million acres of U.S. public lands and waters are already leased to polluting fossil fuel industries, an area 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park 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 extracted from public lands and waters. More than 10 million acres of public lands have been leased to the oil and gas industry since President Obama took office. However, the BLM has yet to adequately consider climate change impacts of fossil fuel extraction and fracking on public land.
Last 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 leasing and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. In January, the Obama Administration placed a moratorium on federal coal leasing while the Department of the Interior studies its impacts on the environment and the economy. The Administration has taken no similar action for its public lands oil and gas program.
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 with 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, a report about the corporations that are profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands.
Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s formal petition calling on the Obama administration to halt all new offshore fossil fuel leasing.
Guardians’ formal petition calling on the
Department of the Interior to analyze the climate impacts of the federal oil
and gas leasing program and to place a moratorium on new leasing until that
study is completed.