'Keep it in the Ground' Movement Delivers 1 Million Signatures to the White House Calling for an End to New Federal Fossil Fuel Leasing

For Immediate Release

'Keep it in the Ground' Movement Delivers 1 Million Signatures to the White House Calling for an End to New Federal Fossil Fuel Leasing

Frontline, Indigenous and Climate Leaders From Across the U.S. Renew One-year Call to End Fossil Fuel Leasing on Public Lands and Oceans

WASHINGTON - Frontline, indigenous and climate leaders from across the country gathered at the White House today to deliver more than 1 million signatures calling on President Obama to stop fossil fuel lease sales on public lands and oceans. The event also marked the one-year growth of this campaign, part of the “Keep it in the Ground” movement, when more than 450 climate groups and leaders first called upon President Obama to take real climate action and end new fossil fuel leasing. 

Today’s event comes as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, ally Indigenous and other supporters wage a historic resistance against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota to protect precious water sources; it also follows as Gulf residents are still recovering from unprecedented flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi exacerbated by climate change. Efforts like these, to protect communities from fossil fuel disasters and to rebuild them after climate catastrophe, underscore the urgent need to halt new fossil fuel development now. 

Over the past year, thousands of people have turned up to peacefully challenge more than 20 federal fossil fuel auctions across the country, calling on the Obama administration to stem further fossil fuel extraction. The quickly growing movement caused the administration to halt several of those sales and now to move auctions online to avoid public controversy.  

Ending new fossil fuel leasing on public land and oceans would keep up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution in the ground—half of the potential pollution from all remaining fossil fuels in the United States.  Federal fossil fuels already leased to industry are capable of producing decades beyond the point by which the planet must transition to clean energy to avoid devastating global warming.

Groups participating in today’s rally include Bold Louisiana, Center for Biological Diversity, Dooda Fracking, Greenpeace, Earthworks, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Rainforest Action Network, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, Science and Environmental Health Network, Sierra Club, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network and WildEarth Guardians

Quotes from participating organizations
"We have joined the national Keep it in the Ground movement because it is a matter of life and death for our part of the world. South Louisiana flooded last month because our atmosphere is warm from fossil fuels. We are getting repeated wake up calls and yet we stay asleep. The time is now — this moment — to end federal leasing of our natural resources and keep this oil where it belongs: beneath the ground." — Anne Rolfes, founding director, Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

"As frontline indigenous community members we have to draw the line between this cultural genocide and the corporate natural resource development procedures on tribal lands. We can no longer allow the industry to experiment on our tribal lands as we experience the dynamics of multiple impacts we have yet to process. The dynamics are too complicated even for our tribal leaders to comprehend. Without full comprehension our concerns are lingering and the industry is extracting day in and day out, while we have little to no time to react as community members." — Kim Howe, Diné, Dooda Fracking

“We are standing against the fossil fuels industry in saying that whether they like it or not, their short term profits are less important than the planet we are going to leave to future generations.” — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“Climate change is here. We're seeing record floods in the Gulf, wildfires in the west, with frontline communities bearing the brunt of this. We need real climate leadership now —  not tomorrow, not in the next administration, but today. President Obama says he wants to be a climate leader. Well he can walk the walk by taking two bold actions: End fossil fuel leases on public lands and public waters; and stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. It defies logic that these things are still happening — they fly in the face of the newly signed Paris Agreement and all the other positive things the president likes to say. It's time for him to act." — Lindsey Allen, executive director, Rainforest Action Network

"Respecting the land is a way of life among Indigenous people. Mother Earth is speaking to us through increased natural disasters and it is time all recognize Her power and ability to nourish or destroy us. Change needs to take place now to ensure there is no more destruction of the land and our people." — Kendra Pinto, community outreach, Counselor Chapter House

"I don't believe this president is done addressing climate change, especially when it comes to our public lands. He knows the government can't keep selling public land rights to oil and gas companies while ignoring climate change. We’re counting on him to step up and fix this before the clock runs out." — Tim Ream, climate and energy campaign director with WildEarth Guardians

“Together, standing as one nation we are powerful beings. Protecting the essence of life on this planet is in the interest of every single being on earth. Protectors of water are protectors of earth. Stand up and stand strong. To' be iina (Water is LIFE).” — Louise Benally, indigenous cultural concepts, environmental-humans rights advocate, from Big Mountain, Black Mesa, Ariz.

“The Keep it in the Ground movement is growing stronger. In just one year, we have fundamentally altered the fossil fuel landscape and are having a national conversation about ending fossil fuel leasing on federally controlled lands and waters. More than one million people are demanding that President Obama use his authority to stop the leasing of fossil fuels on federal lands and water today.” — Erich Pica, executive director, Friends of the Earth
  
“We have come from across the country to deliver a powerful message to President Obama’s doorstep — enough is enough. It is time to change our relationship with fossil fuels as a country, which means no new leases and no new pipelines, period. The people standing here today represent thousands of people across the country who are taking courageous action in their communities, people who face extraction in their backyards and those already on the frontlines of the climate crisis. This movement is here to remind our leaders that it is time for change, and we cannot wait another day.” — Diana Best, senior climate and energy campaigner, Greenpeace USA

“There is already more public fossil fuels under lease than can be safely burned. Climate change is a real and present threat, wreaking havoc right now with historic flooding in the Gulf, and drought and wildfires in the West. More than a million Americans today are telling President Obama to live up to his global climate promises by halting new fossil fuel leases now.” — Valerie Love, clean energy campaigner, Center for Biological Diversity

"In just a few short years, President Obama went from talking about an "all of the above" energy strategy to saying that we need to leave some fossil fuels in the ground. This rapid change speaks to not just the urgency needed to prevent further climate disruption, but to the power of the ‘Keep it in the Ground’ movement as well, and we will continue to work until this is policy — not just rhetoric." — Lena Moffitt, director of Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, Sierra Club

“Around the world and across the U.S., the impacts of the climate crisis reveal themselves with more alarming force every day. The stakes could not be higher – our community safety and well being, thriving natural world, economy, and the future of generations to come hang in the balance. The people have spoken - we are rising for climate justice, and we are calling for President Obama to end all new fossil fuel leases on public lands and waters, and immediately terminate plans to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Given the administration’s recent ratification of the Paris Climate Accord, we must take these actions now, there is no later moment. The people's movement, led by Indigenous peoples, women and frontline, most-impacted communities have the solutions – and we are calling upon the President for immediate support and action with those who are envisioning and building a just and livable future."  — Osprey Oreille Lake, executive director, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International)

“A corporation violates laws and destroys sacred sites, yet activists and journalists are the ones policed. Peaceful protectors are attacked by dogs and pepper sprayed. Unfortunately our government seems unwilling to fulfill its obligations to protect our fundamental rights — clean water, biodiversity, cultural heritage, a stable climate for our children. People are on the ground now fighting for these rights, for their children today and for future generations of all species. My hope and appeal to the current administration is to join this historic moment; be the administration that takes responsibility for global emissions, and delivers tangibly on climate justice.” — Kaitlin Butler, program director, Extreme Energy Initiative lead, Science and Environmental Health Network

"To prevent climate catastrophe, safeguard our treasured landscapes and protect our oceans, we must keep fossil fuels in the ground and transition to 100 percent clean energy. We simply can't continue to drill, mine and burn more fossil fuels while global warming passes the point of no return. To cement his climate and conservation legacy, the president should withdraw all proposals for new fracking, mining and drilling on our public lands and in our oceans." — Rachel Richardson, Stop Drilling program director, Environment America

Background
On behalf of the American people, the U.S. federal government manages nearly 650 million acres of public land and more than 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf — and the fossil fuels beneath them. This includes federal public land, which makes up about a third of the U.S. land area, and oceans like Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Seaboard. These places and the fossil fuels beneath them are held in trust for the public by the federal government; federal fossil fuel leasing is administered by the Department of the Interior.

Over the past decade, the combustion of federal fossil fuels has resulted in nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. A 2015 report by EcoShift Consulting, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, found that remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. As of earlier this year, 67 million acres of federal fossil fuel were already leased to industry, an area more than 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

Last year Sens. Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (I-Vt.) and others introduced the Keep It In the Ground Act (S. 2238) legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later President 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 September 2015 “Keep It in the Ground” letter to President Obama. 

Download Grounded: The Presidents 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 Over-leased: How Production Horizons of Already Leased Federal Fossil Fuels Outlast Global Carbon Budgets.

Download Critical Gulf: The Vital Importance of Ending Fossil Fuel Leasing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Download Public Lands, Private Profits about the corporations profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands.

Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s legal petition calling on the Obama administration to halt all new offshore fossil fuel leasing.

Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s legal petition with 264 other groups calling on the Obama administration to halt all new onshore fossil fuel leasing.

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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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