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In Day of Action, Activists Demand Obama Cancel Oil Leases in Gulf

 Activists and community members say Obama should cancel new leases for oil extraction in the Gulf of Mexico in 2017, thereby affording the Gulf the same protections he gave this year to the Atlantic Coast. (Image: Twitpic/via @JaneKleeb)

President Barack Obama must "live up to his climate legacy," a group of climate activists said Wednesday, as they took part in a day of action to demand that he cancel future leases for fossil fuel extraction in the Gulf of Mexico.

The activists, who represented groups including Louisiana and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, gathered outside the local headquarters of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in New Orleans.

They said Obama should cancel new leases for oil extraction in the water in 2017, thereby affording the Gulf the same protections he gave this year to the Atlantic Coast when he banned offshore drilling there until 2022.

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A press statement released by the Bucket Brigade says their call is backed up by the fact that "[t]he oil industry has thousands of accidents in the Gulf of Mexico each year," and that signs of climate change abound, including the disastrous flooding that hit Louisiana in August, which scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) linked to climate change.

Citing the flooding, Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said: "This should be a wake-up call."

"The oil industry gives us flooding, thousands of oil spills every year and a destroyed coast. We are here with a clear message to President Obama: cancel new leases in the Gulf of Mexico, keep all fossil fuels in the ground," Rolfes said.

The action in New Orleans comes roughly one month after BOEM released a draft environmental impact statement that found up to 31.9 million marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico would be harmed by seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration there.

"For years, industry has been allowed to blast away without permits, without authorizations, and without thought about how its activities are degrading the already beleaguered Gulf," said Michael Jasny, director of NRDC's Marine Mammal Protection Project, in response to the draft statement.

"This place is not a sacrifice zone," he added. "The federal government finally needs to take action once and for all and not condone this business-as-usual disregard for the health of these waters.”

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