A group of Gulf residents were arrested after occupying the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) office in New Orleans on Tuesday, where they were demanding that President Barack Obama cancel an imminent lease sale for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
The BOEM auction scheduled for Wednesday would sell off an area the size of Virginia for fossil fuel drilling and exploration. It is set to take place in the Superdome "behind locked doors," according to a press statement from protest organizers.
Tuesday's demonstration was made more urgent not only by those deadly floods, but also by the release of a new report which warns that burning the fossil fuels under unleased federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico would release the equivalent of up to 32.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—the pollution equivalent of running 9,500 coal-fired power plants for a year.
According to a statement from the Center for Biological Diversity, one of several groups behind the new analysis:
The Gulf already accounts for about 96 percent of all offshore oil and gas production in federal waters in the United States, the report documents, and the region is suffering from increasingly severe storms, rising seas displacing people, saltwater intrusion, and a wide range of environmental-justice impacts, from health problems in communities of color near refineries to a fishing industry hurt by frequent oil spills. Ending new leasing in the Gulf would be an important step toward keeping a vast majority of fossil fuel reserves in the ground, as climate scientists have called for, and creating a just transition to renewable energy for Gulf communities.
"South Louisiana flooded last week because our atmosphere is warm and holds moisture. We are getting repeated wake up calls and yet we stay asleep," said Anne Rolfes, founding director of Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which participated in Tuesday's action. "The time is now—this moment—to end this leasing once and for all and keep this oil where it belongs: in the Gulf of Mexico, beneath the ground."
To underscore that message, demonstrators placed debris from flood-damaged homes in the Baton Rouge area outside the BOEM doors, with a banner reading "President Obama: More Drilling = More Floods."
Added Renate Heurich, a resident of New Orleans and a member of the group occupying BOEM's offices: "As a mother and a teacher, I'm standing up for my children and all other children in the world. If we want to give them any chance to have a livable climate, we need to keep the vast majority of all known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. When BOEM sells the Gulf, they are selling our children's future."
Follow the occupation and larger call to keep fossil fuels in the ground under the hashtag #NoNewLeases: