Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 7, 2016

Contact:  Kathy Albury, Elders Rising, (801) 803-2384,
Vaughn Lovejoy, Elders Rising, (801) 598-2344,
Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 274-9713,

Dozens of Demonstrators Stage Mock Auction in Salt Lake City to
Protest BLM Online Oil, Gas Lease Auction

SALT LAKE CITY— Demonstrators concerned about their grandchildren’s future “auctioned off” the Great Salt Lake, the “Trembling Giant” and other iconic Utah and world resources today to call attention to the inevitable impact the Bureau of Land Management’s continued sale of oil and gas leasing of America’s public lands will have on our climate, water, land and future.

Mock auction
Demonstrators hold a mock auction in Salt Lake City on Wednesday to protest a BLM oil and gas lease auction. Photo by Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity. Photos are available for media use.

The group gathered at the BLM office in Salt Lake City to protest the auction next week of more than 12,000 acres of Utah’s public land or fossil fuel extraction. The parcels up for sale to the fracking industry include more than 1,500 acres in Nine Mile Canyon, an area known as the "world’s longest art gallery,” for its rich heritage of ancient Fremont Culture petroglyphs.

“We’re standing here in the cold today to let the BLM know that it is not OK for them to auction off the future of our grandchildren,” said Kathy Albury of Elders Rising. “It is not OK for them to auction off the very existence of all the creatures who will find life in a warmer, more toxic world impossible. It is not OK for them to auction off the vast oceans becoming more acidic and less able to support life every day. It is not OK for them to enable fossil fuel development that will make the air and water toxic to my grandchildren and all the creatures of the Earth.”

“We participate in this critical movement because the best way to contain pollution caused by carbon is to keep it in the ground,” said Kelly Phanco of the Greater Wasatch Chapter of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “Our future generations depend on us to make decisions now that will keep their environment safe.”

“Latter Day Saints in Utah have many concerns about the continual degrading of our air, water, and soil brought about by the mining, processing and burning of fossil fuels. At a time when our national leaders recognize these dangers to our environment and our planet, it is unconscionable and immoral to continue the practice of leasing out our public lands for the benefit of private corporate profits,” said Ty Markham, chair of the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance.

“For the sake of ourselves, our children and our planet we need to move swiftly away from fossil fuels and embrace clean, renewable energy,” said Valerie Love of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We can’t afford to develop new sources of dirty fuels, and we continue to urge President Obama to end the practice of leasing public lands to oil and gas corporations before he leaves office.”

“When we keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground we protect our shared landscape as a valuable asset to pass on to future generations, while addressing one of the main causes of climate disruption,” said Marion Klaus, volunteer co-leader for Our Wild America Campaign, Sierra Club.

“When we become fully present to what is happening in the world, we see that the decisions we make today will impact those living far in the future. Climate change is the predominant issue of our time but the federal oil and gas public lands leasing program doesn't consider climate impacts. In Utah, the Bureau of Land Management and other state agencies have effectively denied climate change is even happening,” said Kaitlin Butler of Science and Environmental Health Network Women's Congress for Future Generations. “This is a misuse of science that fails to ensure clean air, unpolluted waters, biodiversity and human health needed for a habitable Earth.”

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 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 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 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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