Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 8, 2016

Contacts:  Valerie Love, (510) 274-9713,
Susan Hoog, (775) 772-3892,

Protesters Tell Feds to 'Keep It in the Ground' at Nevada Oil, Gas Auction

Dozens Oppose Lease Sale That Could Add 486,000 Tons of Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

RENO, Nev.— Dozens of protesters with signs, art and a 60-foot “Keep It in the Ground” banner staged a climate rally today outside the Bureau of Land Management’s fossil fuels lease sale in a Reno, Nev., casino, urging President Obama to halt new federal fossil fuel leases. The bureau’s “climate auction,” as protesters dubbed it, will allow industry to bid on more than 50,000 acres — more than 75 square miles — of publicly owned oil and gas leases in Nevada. These public lands harbor an estimated 486,000 tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution and provide important habitat to sensitive and imperiled species such as the bi-state sage grouse, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, pygmy rabbit, Preble’s shrew and at least 22 species of raptors and owls.

Photo by Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity. Photos are available for media use.

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 leases on public lands and oceans — a step that would keep up to 450 billion tons of potential carbon pollution from escaping into the atmosphere. Similar “Keep It in the Ground” protests are planned for upcoming lease sales in Milwaukee, New Orleans and Cheyenne, Wyo., and have already taken place in Alaska, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. Since November protested lease sales have been postponed in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.

Groups participating in today’s rally included Great Basin Climate Action Network, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Great Basin Resource Watch, Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter, Rainforest Action Network,, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Statements From Individuals and Groups

Valerie Love of the Center for Biological Diversity:
“We can’t say we’re committed to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement while we continue to extract and burn public oil and gas. President Obama has the power to stop these auctions and must do so now to preserve his climate legacy and ensure a future of clean air, clean water and a livable planet for future generations.”

Bob Fulkerson With the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada:
“Nevada's scarce groundwater is far too precious to sacrifice to fossil fuel corporations. We call on all elected officials to oppose fracking in Nevada."

Amanda Starbuck of the Rainforest Action Network:
“Fossil fuel companies are profiting off our public lands while wreaking environmental destruction, and passing off massive clean-up costs to taxpayers. President Obama should end these corporate giveaways for good.”

Marissa Knodel, Climate Campaigner With Friends of the Earth:
“Our public lands and waters are not for sale. People are rising up to oppose this corporate giveaway to Fossil Fuel Empires that will only endanger communities and the planet. The Reno climate auction is counter to what should be President Obama’s climate legacy: keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”

Jason Kowalski, U.S. Policy Director at
“Climate leaders don't sell extraction rights to the highest bidder, they keep fossil fuels in the ground. What President Obama does over the next few months will set the stage for the next administration, and the positions of presidential candidates show that the political consensus is already shifting. Obama’s coal moratorium on public lands is huge, but these new fossil fuel lease auctions happening every two weeks point out that there's much more to do."

Janette Dean, Environmental Advocate and Current Issue Chair for Global Warming at the Sierra Club's Toiyabe Chapter:
“The fact that we American citizens have to keep protesting new oil and gas leases on our public lands along with the environmentally detrimental practice of hydraulic fracturing — also known as ‘fracking’ — is not acceptable. The U.S. and the world agreed in Paris in December that people and the planet must be protected by reducing carbon emissions as quickly as possible. We therefore insist that President Obama stop the expansion of all fossil fuel leasing on public lands beyond just coal, and that he and his administration work to reduce as many existing fossil fuel leases as possible.”

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

On Monday, activists projected huge climate messages onto the exterior walls of the Reno casino where Tuesday’s auction took place.

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, Sens. 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 2015, in response to protests, the BLM has postponed oil and gas leasing auctions in Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.

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’ 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.

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