Protesters Tell Feds: 'Keep It in the Ground' at Utah Oil, Gas Lease Sale

For Immediate Release


Jill Merritt, Elders Rising, (801) 486-9966,
Lauren Wood, Wasatch Rising Tide, (801) 647-1540,
Tim Ream, WildEarth Guardians, (541) 531-8541,
Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 274-9713,

Protesters Tell Feds: 'Keep It in the Ground' at Utah Oil, Gas Lease Sale

Dozens Call for Bold Climate Leadership at 'Climate Auction'

SALT LAKE CITY - Dozens of protesters with signs and large banners staged a colorful climate rally today outside of the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas lease sale in Salt Lake City, urging President Obama to “Keep It in the Ground.” The BLM’s “climate auction,” as protesters dubbed it, allowed industry to bid on oil and gas leases for more than 6,000 acres of publicly owned land in Utah. Some of the protesters entered the auction venue and were removed by authorities.

Demonstrators are forcibly removed from today’s “Keep It in the Ground” rally in Salt Lake City. Photo by Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity. Photos are available for media use.

“In his 2016 State of the Union, President Obama spoke about fossil fuels, saying, ‘Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future.’ The future he is talking about is the future of my grandchildren, and their grandchildren and the grandchildren of all the species on this planet,” said Kathy Albury of Elders Rising. “The energy we invest in must ensure clean air, clean water and a stable climate. To do that, we have to quickly phase out fossil fuels. Keep it in the ground!”

“Global warming is getting scary fast. Every month since we called on President Obama to end federal leasing last September has been an all-time global temperature record-breaker,” said Tim Ream, climate and energy campaign director with WildEarth Guardians. “With his signature climate policy languishing in the federal courts till the next president, Obama needs to move boldly and immediately to stop leasing fossil fuels on public lands and waters.”

Federal coal, oil and gas leasing are responsible for a stunning one-quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. By ending new leasing on public lands and waters, the president could lock nearly one-half of all U.S. fossil fuels safely in the ground. The message to markets and to other nations from such an action would be unmistakable. Instead the president has leased millions of acres of public lands to dirty energy companies, with oil production on federal lands up 62 percent since he took office.

“The climate movement is reaching a critical mass,” said Lauren Wood of Wasatch Rising Tide. “Scientists talk about ‘tipping points,’ well, this movement is at a tipping point. We are not going to stop, so the BLM must change.”

“The ‘Keep It in the Ground’ movement is growing stronger every day,” said Valerie Love of the Center for Biological Diversity. “President Obama needs to listen to the voices and permanently end federal fossil fuel auctions like this one.”

The rally is part of a rapidly growing national movement calling on President Obama to halt new federal fossil fuel leases on public lands and waters. Since November protested lease sales have been postponed in Utah, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.

Groups participating in today’s rally include Elders Rising, Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN), WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, Wasatch Rising Tide, Canyon Country Rising Tide, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Fossil Free Natural History Museum of Utah, SLC350 and

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 represent half of all U.S. carbon 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 nonproducing 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, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.

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).

Download 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, for the first time ever, the climate impacts of the federal oil and gas leasing program and to place a moratorium on new leasing until that study is completed.


At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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