Center for Biological Diversity

Media Advisory, November 11, 2015 

Contact: Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414

'Keep It in the Ground' Rally to Target BLM’s Oil and Gas Auction in Colorado

Climate Activists, Polar Bear to Protest in Lakewood

DENVER— Dozens of climate activists, including “Frostpaw the Polar Bear,” will protest Thursday morning outside of the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas lease sale in Lakewood, Colo. The Bureau’s “climate auction,” as protesters dubbed it, will allow industry to bid on more than 90,000 acres of publicly owned oil and gas in central and eastern Colorado — which contain upwards of 1 million estimated tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution, and possibly much more.

The rally is part of a rapidly growing national movement calling on President Obama to define his climate legacy by stopping new federal fossil fuel leases 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 Reno, Nev., Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C.

What: “Keep It in the Ground” rally at BLM oil and gas leasing auction.

When: Thursday, Nov. 12, at 8:00 a.m.

Where: Bureau of Land Management, 2850 Youngfield St, Lakewood, Colo.

Who:  350 Colorado, Audubon Society of Greater Denver, Be the Change, Center for Biological Diversity, Coloradans Against Fracking, Direct FRACK-tion, Earth Guardians, Food & Water Watch, Frack-Free CO, Friends of the Earth, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Rights for All People, Ruckus Society, Save the Colorado, WildEarth Guardians and others.

Media availability: Activists will be available for interviews before and after the protest. The rally will also include the Center for Biological Diversity’s Frostpaw the Polar Bear, which has been following President Obama from Washington to Hawaii to Martha’s Vineyard urging him to take action on the climate crisis.  

“Less than a week ago President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline and called for more fossil fuels to stay in the ground to help save our planet,” said the Center’s Taylor McKinnon. “He can keep his word this week by cancelling this oil and gas auction in Colorado and doing the same in Utah, Nevada and indeed around the rest of the country.”

Thursday’s auction is being held despite earlier administrative protests (here and here) and a letter from local and national groups to President Obama urging the lease sale be cancelled owing to concerns over runaway greenhouse gas pollution and climate impacts. The letter and protest argue that the auction perpetuates a conflict between the administration’s climate goals and its “all of the above” energy policy by leasing federal fossil fuels that should be considered “unburnable” in the context of global carbon budgets. The rally reinforces that federal fossil fuels — those that the president controls — should be the first taken off the table to mitigate climate damage.

Thursday’s rally follows a similar one held at a lease sale in Wyoming last week. More “Keep it in the Ground” protests are expected for upcoming lease sales in Salt Lake City, Reno and Washington D.C. this fall. Together the sales make up hundreds of thousands of acres of western public lands being transferred to fossil fuel industry control.

Images from the rally will be uploaded in real-time and available for media use here.

The American public owns nearly 650 million acres of federal public land, and more than 1.7 billion acres of Outer Continental Shelf — and the fossil fuels beneath them. This includes federal public lands like national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges that make up about a third of the U.S. land area — and oceans like Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard. These places and fossil fuels are held in trust for the public by the federal government; federal fossil fuel leasing is administered by the Department of the Interior.

Over the past decade, the combustion of federal fossil fuels has resulted in nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. An August report by EcoShift consulting, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, found that remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that has not been leased to industry contains up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. As of earlier this year, 67 million acres federal fossil fuel were already leased to industry, an area more than 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

More than 400 organizations and leaders in September called on President Obama to end federal fossil fuel leasing. They included: Bill McKibben, Winona LaDuke, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Dr. Noam Chomsky, Dr. Michael Mann, Tim DeChristopher, Dr. Stuart Pimm, Dr. Michael Soule, United Auto Workers Union, Unitarian Universalist Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Protect Our Winters,, Center for Biological Diversity, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, REDOIL, Sierra Club, Great Old Broads fro Wilderness Waterkeeper Alliance, WildEarth Guardians and hundreds of others.

Last week Senators Merkley (D-OR), Sanders (D-VT) and others introduced legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases.  Days later President Obama cancelled the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying “Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

Download the letter urging President Obama to cancel Thursday’s oil and gas lease sale here.

Download the September “Keep It in the Ground” letter to Obama here.

Download Grounded: The President’s Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground here (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 here (this report quantifies the volume and potential greenhouse gas emissions of remaining federal fossil fuels).

Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet here.

Download Public Lands, Private Profits here (this report details the corporations profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands).

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