Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 14, 2016

Contact: AJ Buhay, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, (310) 908-7852,
John Hadder, Great Basin Resource Watch, (775) 348-1986,
Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 274-9713,
Britten Cleveland, Greenpeace, (941) 979-2948,
Peter Dakota Molof, Rainforest Action Network, (971) 295-0887,

Protesters Tell Feds to 'Keep It in the Ground' at Fossil Fuel Auction in Reno

Nevadans to Obama: Halt Lease Sales Now to Protect Water, Land, Wildlife, Climate Future

RENO, Nev.— Hundreds of Nevadans today protested a Bureau of Land Management fossil fuel auction in Reno, calling on the Obama administration to cancel the lease sale to protect Nevada’s water, communities and climate future from fracking. The protest included public speakers, songs and visual and performance art spectacles — including a massive human oil spill. 

Keep It in the Ground

More than 100 demonstrators urge President Obama to Keep It in the Ground at a fossil fuel auction in Reno. Photos are available for media use. Photo by Kyla Whitmore, Center for Biological Diversity.

The Bureau planned to auction more than 74,000 acres — or 115 square miles — of the Big Smoky Valley for fracking that could, if fully developed, deplete and pollute precious surface and ground water, industrialize traditional indigenous land, public land and habitat for wildlife, impact agriculture and create almost a half-million tons of greenhouse gas pollution. 

The protest is part of a rapidly growing national movement calling on President Obama to expand 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 in the ground. “Keep It in the Ground” rallies opposed to federal fossil fuel auctions have been growing across the country — in Alaska, Colorado, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Reno, Nev., where two rallies have taken place — halting some of them.

Citing concerns over fracking impacts to water, wildlife and the climate, the Center for Biological Diversity, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and Great Basin Resource Watch in April administratively protested the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of today’s auction. Download that protest here. A second protest, from the Yomba Shoshone tribe, over impacts to water, communities, endangered species and cultural resources is here.

Images from today’s protest can be downloaded here and here.

Quotes From Protesters
“Public lands are not meant to line the pockets of dirty energy corporations,” said AJ Buhay with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. “The BLM must choose to put people and planet first, not sell off our precious lands to the highest bidder. We stood with the BLM against domestic terrorists in Bunkerville, now we want the BLM to stand with us. There are too many harmful side effects of fracking, the scariest being the poisoning of our scarce water resources. The native community holds these lands to be sacred, and so do we. There are other ways to find energy for our state and our country without destroying our water and land, or in effect, our way of life and our precious state that we call home.”

“We stand with the communities in Nevada concerned about how fracking will affect their lifestyle and environment,” said John Hadder with Great Basin Resource Watch. “If lands optioned for lease by BLM are developed some of these people would be surrounded by oil and gas production operations. We have seen how mineral extraction has eroded the cultural value of the land and displaced sustainable traditional ranching and farming — fracking will do the same. Fracking is very destructive to the land and poses unacceptable risks to existing clean groundwater and air that communities depend upon.” 

“We can’t continue to extract and burn decades more public oil and gas and say we’re committed to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement,” said Valerie Love with the Center for Biological Diversity. “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.”

“Fossil fuel companies make millions off public land leases while wreaking environmental destruction, harming people’s health and violating indigenous rights,” said Peter Dakota Molof of Rainforest Action Network. “Today's action is an escalation of the people's movement asking President Obama to stop these corporate giveaways now."

“From Colorado to Utah to right here in Nevada, this is what you can expect when the public is effectively locked out of decision-making on public lands,” said Britten Cleveland of Greenpeace. “People are not going to sit idly by and watch oil and gas companies destroy the land and water we love and need to survive. We’re going to rise up. And we’re going to keep on coming.”

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 land, which makes 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 beneath them 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 2015 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 have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. As of earlier this year, 67 million acres of 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.

Last year Sens. Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (I-Vt.) and others introduced legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later President 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.”

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

Download Grounded: The Presidents 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) and 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 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.

Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s formal petition calling on the Obama administration to halt all new offshore fossil fuel leasing.

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