More Than 40 Frontline, Indigenous and Climate Leaders Occupy the Department of the Interior Headquarters to Demand President Obama End Fossil Fuel Lease Sales

For Immediate Release

More Than 40 Frontline, Indigenous and Climate Leaders Occupy the Department of the Interior Headquarters to Demand President Obama End Fossil Fuel Lease Sales

WASHINGTON - Several protesters were arrested this afternoon after more than 40 frontline, indigenous and climate leaders occupied the headquarters of the Department of the Interior to demand that President Obama end fossil fuel lease sales. The group just entered the lobby chanting “Keep it in the Ground.”

The action highlights President Obama’s authority to stop leases sales of public lands and waters and to lock in half of the potential climate pollution from all remaining fossil fuels in the United States.

The action to occupy the Department of the Interior is an escalation of the “Keep it in the Ground” campaign to end fossil fuel auctions, where for the past year more than 1,000 people across the country have peacefully protested more than 20 lease sales. Today’s action builds on a protest last month in which four people were arrested for challenging the sale of 23 million offshore acres in the Gulf of Mexico.

Those risking arrest today represent communities in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming, and include the executive directors from four national environmental organizations: Earthworks, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network and WildEarth Guardians.

Today’s event also echoes the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, ally indigenous supporters and others as they wage a historic resistance against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. In solidarity with the Standing Rock resistance, the action today aims to stop further fossil fuel extraction and climate destruction.

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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