‘Keep it in the Ground’ Protest Targets Obama Administration’s Fossil Fuel Auction in Milwaukee

For Immediate Release


Jamie Henn
jamie [at] 350.org

‘Keep it in the Ground’ Protest Targets Obama Administration’s Fossil Fuel Auction in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. - Uniting under the call to ‘keep it in the ground’, dozens of activists gathered outside of the Milwaukee Theater to protest the auction of over 580 acres of public lands for oil and gas extraction. This is the same auction that the Obama administration postponed last minute during the Paris climate talks as a result of increased pressure from climate campaigners.

This action is part of a growing movement calling on President Obama to halt all new fossil fuel leases offshore and on public lands. Just last week, a fossil fuel auction in Reno, Nevada ended without any bids for over 50,000 acres of publicly owned land after activists peacefully disrupted the sale. Since November, protested lease sales have been postponed in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced that they will bar all drilling off the Atlantic coast. While many applaud this step, environmentalists plan to act in accordance with the urgency of the climate crisis, calling for the same protection for the Gulf of Mexico, Arctic, and all public lands.

A report from Ecoshift Consulting revealed that ending the policy of auctioning off public lands for oil, gas and coal extraction would keep 90 percent of these fossil fuels in the ground, forever — keeping 450 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

A broad coalition of groups in the Gulf South are calling for “No New Leases” as groups urge President Obama to cancel the fossil fuel auction planned at the iconic Superdome in New Orleans on March 23rd, highlighting the irony of selling more fossil fuels at a national landmark for climate impacts.


Jason Kowalski, U.S. Policy Director with 350.org said: “From Reno to Milwaukee to New Orleans to Washington, DC and beyond, activists are sending a clear message: climate leaders keep fossil fuels in the ground. President Obama has made powerful steps in addressing climate change, such as imposing a coal moratorium and floating new methane regulations, but all of that is undermined if he continues to sell vast quantities of oil and gas to the fossil fuel industry.”

Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity said: “Each new federal fossil fuel lease takes us closer to climate disaster.Leaving a livable climate for future generations requires keeping fossil fuels in the ground now, and we should start with the public lands that President Obama controls.”

Julie Enslow, 350 Milwaukee said: "As a Milwaukee citizen concerned about climate change, I strongly oppose the BLM auction in our city.  It is time to stop all government leasing of our public lands to the fossil fuel industry for extraction of oil and gas, and coal. Time is running out for a livable planet, and the burning of fossil fuels has to stop."


Background: 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 (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 2015, in response to protests, the BLM has postponed oil and gas leasing auctions in Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.


350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. But solutions exist. All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350. This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.

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