For Immediate Release, March 23, 2016
Hundreds Gather to Oppose Offshore Oil Leases in Gulf of Mexico
Gulf Residents, Environmentalists Rally at New Orleans Superdome in
Historic ‘Keep It in the Ground’ Action
NEW ORLEANS— Hundreds of Gulf Coast residents, supported by local and national environmental and social-justice groups, rallied at the Superdome in New Orleans today in an unprecedented call to end federal offshore fossil fuel lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico.
The historic rally, highlighted by giant puppets and a rainbow of banners, amplified the call to end new fossil fuel leases and support a just transition away from fossil fuels for Gulf communities, especially those living on the coast or front lines of the oil industry. Busloads of concerned citizens came from around the Gulf, including Houston, Texas; Mobile, Ala.; Gulfport, Miss.; Pensacola, Fla.; and Lafayette, La.
Demonstrators at the Superdome in New Orleans. Photo courtesy Center for Biological Diversity. More photos available for media use.
Today’s lease sale of 43 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico is the first since the Obama administration unveiled a five-year offshore drilling plan that protects the Atlantic but leaves the Gulf and Arctic open to dirty and dangerous fossil fuel extraction projects. Last week groups sent a letter to President Obama asking him to immediately cancel this auction, whose sales will contribute significantly to global carbon emissions. Offshore drilling also threatens the well-being of Gulf Coast communities and wildlife. Out of more than 5,000 active federal oil and gas leases, most are in the Gulf.
In addition to ending new leases, Gulf residents also demand that the industry create at least 1,000 jobs to address its aging infrastructure and toxic legacy, particularly in communities of color.
Fighting new offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico, long an epicenter of the fossil fuel industry, represents a new front for the environmental movement. The Superdome rally builds off the momentum of the national Keep It in the Ground movement, which has held similar actions across the country over the past year. President Obama has the authority to halt all new fossil fuel leases on public lands and waters and should move this forward quickly to uphold promises made during the Paris Climate talks.
The movement has had significant victories already, including a recent win by Atlantic Coast residents to protect their shores in the five-year offshore drilling plan. Last month Obama placed a moratorium on federal coal leasing to study its impacts on taxpayers and the planet. And since November, in response to protests, the BLM has postponed oil and gas leasing auctions in Utah, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, D.C. Details on the Superdome event and Gulf organizing effort can be found at www.nonewleases.org.
Images of today's rally are available upon request.
Statements from groups and letter signatories:
“The oil industry has drilled and polluted and destroyed the Gulf Coast for the last 100 years. Those of us who live here have let them get away with it. Today's action is historic precisely because of the past century of submission. We are telling Big Oil to take their rigs and go home. And we are telling our elected officials to get with it, to lead the transition from dirty energy to one that relies on wind and solar. Clean, safe jobs are the jobs we want; this is the future we want. If we don't grab it now, we risk being left behind in an oily puddle,” said Anne Rolfes, founding director of Louisiana Bucket Brigade.
“A just transition requires visionary movement building at the intersections of exploitation and extraction. We believe art is a critical tool for bridging our folks and fights. This action’s visual narrative and performative elements show how brilliant the future of the Gulf South and beyond will be once we move away from the fossil fuel industry as our predominant economic force,” said Jayeesha Dutta of Radical Arts and Healing Collective.
“People in the Gulf Coast know the impacts of climate change and fossil fuel industry pollution firsthand. That’s especially true in low income and communities of color who are the front lines of this crisis. Hosting this oil and gas auction at the Superdome, perhaps the most iconic site of climate destruction in the United States, just adds insult to injury. The science is clear: in order to prevent climate catastrophe we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. That means an immediate end to all new oil and gas leases in the Gulf and a full transition to 100 percent renewable energy,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org.
“From the BP drilling disaster to the loss of coastal wetlands the size of Delaware, the Gulf has already paid too high a price for our nation's oil addiction. We're standing alongside over 66,000 Care2 members who have asked the Administration to admit all carbon is connected, and end new oil leasing in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Aaron Viles of Care2.com.
“If we’re to have any hope of protecting our coastal communities from the devastating effects of climate change and oil spills, we need to act now to keep fossil fuels in the ground. President Obama halted new offshore oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic, and he needs to do the same in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic,” said Blake Kopcho, oceans campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“In chilling foretelling, BP nicknamed its own Deepwater Horizon oil drilling lease ‘Macondo,’ the cursed town of mirrors in Gabriel Garcia Marquez' 100 Years of Solitude — and the story of generations doomed to repeat history. We are here to stop the next generation of oil and gas leases, break the curse and unite with communities to claim a fossil fuel free future,” said Janet MacGillivray, with Indigena.
“The Gulf of Mexico has been devastated by negligent oil companies and continues to be plundered for profit. We have to stop these corporate giveaways and protect these waters for Gulf Coast peoples and the planet. It's time to heed their call to end destructive offshore leases. Across all coasts, keep fossil fuels in the ground,” said Ruth Breech, senior campaigner at Rainforest Action Network.