Second Auction Halted in a Month Following Growing Protests
In November, facing a previous “Keep It in the Ground” protest, the BLM halted another oil and gas auction in Utah. Auctions in Wyoming and Colorado were similarly protested this fall, with another slated for Reno, Nev., on Tuesday.
The protests are part of a rapidly growing “Keep It in the Ground” movement of local and national groups calling on President Obama to define his climate legacy by stopping new federal fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans — a step that would keep as much as 450 billion tons of carbon pollution from escaping into the atmosphere.
The auctions highlight a significant conflict between the Obama administration’s climate goals and its “all-of-the-above” energy policy by leasing federal fossil fuels that should be considered “unburnable” in the context of global carbon budgets. Federal fossil fuels — those that the president controls — should be the first taken off the table to fight climate change.
“The ‘Keep It in the Ground’ movement is only getting stronger, and the Obama administration is going to face more and larger protests for auctioning off federal fossil fuels to the highest bidder,” said McKinnon.
The American public owns nearly 650 million acres of federal public land, as well as more than 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf — and the fossil fuels beneath them. The federal public lands include national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges that make up about a third of the U.S. land area — and oceans such as Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Seaboard. These places and fossil fuels are held in trust for the public by the federal government; federal fossil fuel leasing is administered by the Department of the Interior.
The potential greenhouse gas emissions of unleased federal fossil fuels — including unleased oil and gas in Nevada — is incompatible with any U.S. share of global carbon limits to avoid dangerous warming. By ending new leasing, the president can remove as much as 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas emissions from the global pool.
More than 400 organizations and leaders in September called on Obama to end federal fossil fuel leasing. They included Bill McKibben, Winona LaDuke, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Dr. Noam Chomsky, Dr. Michael Mann, Tim DeChristopher, Dr. Stuart Pimm, Dr. Michael Soule, United Auto Workers Union, Unitarian Universalist Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Protect Our Winters, 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, REDOIL, Sierra Club, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Waterkeeper Alliance, WildEarth Guardians and hundreds of others.
On Nov. 4 Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and others introduced legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel nonproducing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later Obama canceled the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying, “Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”
Download the letter urging President Obama to cancel Thursday’s oil and gas lease sale here.
Download the September “Keep It in the Ground” letter to Obama 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 of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels here (this report quantifies the volume and potential greenhouse gas emissions of remaining federal fossil fuels).
Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions factsheet here.
Download Public Lands, Private Profits here (this report details the corporations profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands).