Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 8, 2015

Contacts:       Valerie Love, (510) 274-9713,
Susan Hoog, (775)

Protesters Tell Feds to 'Keep It in the Ground' at Reno Fossil Fuel Auction as
Obama Negotiates Paris Climate Pact

Keep It in the Ground Movement Brings Climate Justice to Western Public Lands Leasing

RENO, Nev.— Dozens of protesters with signs, banners and the “Grinch Who Stole Our Climate Future” staged a climate rally today outside of the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas auction in Reno, Nev., urging President Obama to “keep it in the ground.” The BLM’s “climate auction,” as protesters have dubbed it, would allow industry to bid on leases across more than 5,000 acres in eastern Nevada, just as world leaders have gathered to broker a climate deal in Paris.

Keep It in the Ground
Photo courtesy Center for Biological Diversity. Photos are available for media use.

The rally is part of a rapidly growing national movement calling on the president to define his climate legacy and keep fossil fuels in the ground by stopping new federal oil, coal and natural gas leases on public lands and oceans — a step that would keep up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution in the ground and provide critical international climate leadership.

Facing similar “Keep It in the Ground” protests, federal officials in November halted an oil and gas auction in Utah and on Monday, federal officials halted another scheduled for Thursday in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of people have turned out for similar protests this fall in Wyoming, Colorado and Alaska.

Groups participating in today’s in Reno rally included Nevadans Against Fracking, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Great Basin Climate Action Network, Great Basin Resource Watch, Center for Biological Diversity,, Rainforest Action Network and WildEarth Guardians, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Food and Water Watch.

Federal fossil fuel auctions perpetuate a conflict between the Obama administration’s climate goals and its “all of the above” energy policy by leasing fuels that should be considered “unburnable” in the context of global carbon budgets. Federal fossil fuels — those that the president controls — should be the first taken off the table to mitigate climate damage.

More than 400 organizations and leaders working on the “Keep It in the Ground” campaign called on President Obama to end new federal fossil fuel leases following reports that doing so would keep up to 450 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution in the ground, and that the president has the legal authority to do so now, without Congress. Those emissions would be incompatible with any reasonable U.S. share of global carbon budgets to avoid catastrophic warming.

On Nov. 4, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and others introduced legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel nonproducing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later, Obama canceled 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.”

Statements from Individuals and Groups

“Holding this Reno auction of federal oil and gas leases is the last thing the Obama administration should be doing during the Paris climate talks,” said Valerie Love with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Any serious effort to slow global warming should begin with a ban on the sale of fossil fuel leases on public lands.”

“We believe public lands should be part of the solution to climate change, not part of the problem,” said Shelley Silbert of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “Why stick our heads in the sand by opening up new oil and gas leasing at this point in our history? It’s not hard to agree that we all want a livable climate for our children and grandchildren.”

“Nevada's scarce groundwater is far too precious to risk on the short-term financial gain of the wealth fossil fuel industry,” said Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. “We will continue to oppose fracking in Nevada."

“Enough it enough. We have to address the seriousness of the climate crisis, now. No more selling our public lands and fossil fuels to wealthy energy companies,” Ruth Breech of the Rainforest Action Network. “People are showing up in Reno, Paris and around the country to make a bold stand to keep fossil fuels in the ground. It's time to make our climate, our communities, our health and our future the top priority.”

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.

The potential greenhouse gas emissions of unleased federal fossil fuels—including unleased oil and gas in Nevada—is incompatible with any U.S. share of global carbon limits to avoid dangerous warming.  By ending new leasing, the President can remove up to 450 billion tons from the global pool of potential greenhouse gas emissions.  Doing so by ending this and all other federal fossil fuel leases would provide critical international climate leadership as world leaders are gathered to broker a climate deal in Paris.

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 an analysis of volumes and potential emissions of the Colorado, Utah and Wyoming oil and gas lease sales (including today’s sale) 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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