The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Cassidy DiPaola,

Communities Protest Oil, Gas Lease Sales on Public Lands, Waters

Demonstrations erupt amidst Supreme Court EPA Decision and Biden Offshore Leasing Plan.


Furious with President Biden's plans to open more national lands and waters to oil and gas leasing amidst the climate emergency and devastating Supreme Court attacks on our health and environment, people gathered in protest across the country, with demonstrations ranging from Hawaii to Washington, DC.

Despite campaign promises to ban new oil and gas leasing and drilling on public lands and waters, the Biden administration began its first onshore lease sales on Wednesday and will auction off more than 128,300 acres of public lands leases across seven states this week. Adding literal fuel to the fire, the administration is poised today to release a new five-year plan for more offshore oil leasing, which Reuters reports will include millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico.

President Biden has executive authority not only to stop new lease sales, but also to cancel existing leases and phase out production. Any new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters is incompatible with the goal of avoiding 1.5C of warming.

Demonstrations were held at Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Offices nationwide, the Department of Interior offices responsible for approving new leases for onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling. While local activists addressed climate impacts to their home region, each group echoed one demand - "President Biden, Keep Your Promise and End Fossil Fuel Leasing."

Millions of Americans and over 1200 groups that are part of the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition have demanded the White House ban federal fossil fuel leasing - with nearly half a million new petition signatures opposing leasing plans in the past six months. The People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition and its members are dedicated to ending the fossil fuel era and implementing a just transition to a clean, renewable energy future.

In the same week that the Supreme Court delivered a devastating blow to our environment, health, and civil liberties, activists are reminding the administration that this does nothing to undermine Biden's authority under other bedrock laws to follow through on his climate promises using executive action. Biden can and must declare a climate emergency and stop new fossil fuel leases, exports, pipelines and other infrastructure today.

The following are quotes from community leaders impacted by the fight to end new leasing:

"The oil and gas industry has already extracted so much profit from the Gulf South while leaving us with pollution that hasn't been cleaned up," said Colette Pichon Battle, executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy. "At the beginning of this year, the industry had more than 9,000 unused permits to drill on public lands. They already have so much. The people in the Gulf South want a future built around justly sourced renewable energy."

"The administration and the Department of Interior have a trust responsibility to protect public lands, many of which fall under tribal treaties and or have cultural relevance to tribes onshore and offshore," said Joye Braun of Indigenous Environmental Network, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. "We as Indigenous people, the first peoples of this land and water have been crying out to stop the onslaught of destructive forces of fossil fuel expansion leading to rapid climate catastrophe. The Biden administration must find the strength to halt these lease sales, move to a just transition that will protect all life, including our own. We are failing and we just don't have time to be moderate or continue to capitulate to industry. Now is the time for bold decisive action. Stop these lease sales."

"This is the wrong time to expand oil and gas drilling. We don't have to wait for climate change in Montana. It's here," said Jeff Smith, the co-chair of 350 Montana. "We're seeing it in our megafires and smoked-out summers, our prolonged drought, extreme weather events like the recent Yellowstone River flooding, which was almost twice the all-time record river flow, and the fish kills on our warmer rivers and streams. Nature is telling us we must cut greenhouse gasses and keep oil and gas in the ground. We know that in Montana, the cleanest energy is also the cheapest energy. And the only thing preventing us from going there is the lethargy of our elected officials."

Background: Fossil fuel production on public lands causes about a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Pollution from the world's already-producing oil, gas and coal fields, if fully developed, would push global warming far beyond the 1.5-degree Celsius target to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Simply put, new fossil fuel leasing is incompatible with a sustainable climate.

A federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year according to peer-reviewed science, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate policy proposals in recent years.

The President has the authority under existing laws to prohibit new federal fossil fuel leasing.

Fossil Free Media is a nonprofit media lab that supports the movement to end fossil fuels and address the climate emergency.