The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Vaughn Lovejoy, Elders Rising, (801) 598-2344

Lauren Wood, Canyon Country Rising Tide, (801) 647-1540

Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 274-9713

Ruth Breech, Rainforest Action Network, (415) 238-1766

Tim Ream, WildEarth Guardians, (541) 531-8541

100+ Climate Activists Protest BLM Oil, Gas Auction in Utah

Local Residents, Demonstrators Draw 60-foot Red Line on Climate Change


More than 100 climate activists carrying signs, banners and theatrical bidders' paddles rallied today at the Bureau of Land Management's fossil fuel auction at the Salt Palace 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 more than 45,000 acres of publicly owned oil and gas in Utah -- which harbor an estimated 1.87 million tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

Demonstrators waved mock auction bidder paddles adorned with photos of children to indicate the need to act now to prevent the most extreme effects of climate change on future generations. Activists also unfurled a 60-foot banner reading "Keep It in the Ground," a tribute to the 100-meter-long "Red-Line Action" banner used at the Paris climate talks to signify the line of temperature and carbon emissions that cannot be crossed to avoid catastrophic climate disruption.

The rally is part of a rapidly growing national movement calling on President Obama to define his climate legacy by halting new federal fossil fuel auctions on public lands and oceans -- a step that would keep up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution from escaping into the atmosphere. Similar "Keep It in the Ground" protests are planned for upcoming lease sales in Nevada, Wisconsin and New Orleans, and have already taken place in Alaska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada.

In the past four months, protested lease sales have been postponed in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.

Groups participating in today's rally included Elders Rising, Canyon Country Rising Tide, Center for Biological Diversity, First UU Environmental Ministry, Great Old Broads For Wilderness, Green Riverkeeper Affiliate & Living Rivers, Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, Science & Environmental Health Network, Women's Congress for Future Generations, Sierra Club, Utah Moms for Clean Air, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Utahns for Bernie Sanders, WildEarth Guardians and others.

Statements From Individuals and Groups

Vaugh Lovejoy, Elders Rising:
"As one of the founding members of Elders Rising it is my deepest prayer that those of us who came to age in the '60s will now reawaken to our youthful hopes and visions to create a just world fueled by the living flames of compassion and love and an empowered vision of beauty. Now our children and grandchildren desperately need for us to fulfill this -- our generation's calling and destiny."

Kaitlin Butler, Science & Environmental Health Network, Women's Congress for Future Generations:

"When we become fully present to what is happening in the world, we see that the decisions we make today will impact those living far in the future. Climate change is the predominant issue of our time but the Federal Oil and Gas Public Lands Leasing program doesn't consider climate impacts. In Utah, the Bureau of Land Management and other state agencies have effectively denied climate change is even happening. This is a misuse of science that fails to ensure clean air, unpolluted waters, biodiversity, human health -- a habitable Earth. But people can do something huge and now to demand a different legacy. And they are! More and more communities are coming together to defend the universal right to a clean and healthy environment now and for future generations."

Ty Markham, Chair of the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance (MESA):
"Latter Day Saints in Utah have many concerns about the continual degrading of our air, water and soil brought about by the mining, processing and burning of fossil fuels. At a time when our national leaders recognize these dangers to our environment and our planet, it is unconscionable and immoral to continue the practice of leasing out our public lands for the benefit of private corporate profits. We believe these natural resources should be left in the ground, and a clean energy future be pursued by our elected leaders. For this reason we join with other 'Elders Rising' to stand up for the preservation and protection of our public lands, as an important means to ensuring that our children and grandchildren can thrive in a healthy and beautiful world."

Valerie Love, Clean Energy Campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity:
"Postponing these public lands fossil fuel auctions is not enough. If the U.S. is to deliver on its commitment to slowing the pace of catastrophic climate change, it simply cannot extract and burn even more public fossil fuels. President Obama needs to halt this practice once and for all. My friends and I will continue to protest these unnecessary lease sales whenever and wherever they occur."

Tim Ream, Climate and Energy Campaign Director for WildEarth Guardians:
"It's simple. The climate impacts of the federal oil and gas program have never been studied. We are going to keep on protesting every single oil and gas lease sale until Obama agrees to that study and puts a timeout on oil and gas just like he did for coal."

Images from today's protest are available for media use.

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 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 contain up to 450 billion additional tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

In September more than 400 organizations called on President Obama to end federal fossil fuel leasing. In November Senators Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (D-Vt.) and others introduced legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing 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, in response to protests, the BLM has postponed oil and gas leasing auctions in Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.

See this map for planned February 2016 lease sales in Utah and nearby states.

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 administrative protest of the February 2016 Utah Oil and Gas Lease Sale.

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 completed 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.

(520) 623-5252