For Immediate Release, July 25, 2016
Moving Gulf Fossil Fuel Lease Sales Online Won't Halt Public's
Growing Opposition to Offshore Drilling
NEW ORLEANS— Gulf Coast community groups and their allies in national environmental organizations today criticized the Obama administration’s decision to hold a lease sale for nearly 24 million acres of offshore fossil fuels on Aug. 24 behind closed doors — a step clearly designed to limit public pressure that’s been mounting against leases in the Gulf of Mexico and around the nation. The groups vowed to continue demonstrations and protests against the Aug. 24 lease sale and future lease offerings.
The coalition that held a massive demonstration against the March 23 lease sale at the Superdome in New Orleans was actively organizing around the upcoming sale when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced the new plan on Friday.
“The administration can’t silence the movement to protect the Gulf and our climate. This new plan was clearly designed to stifle public opposition and it shows they’re worried about the growing resistance to new offshore leases,” said Cherri Foytlin of Bridge the Gulf. “The Obama administration needs to take a strong stance on climate change and end all new offshore leases in the Gulf and waters off Alaska, rather than trying to hide from public scrutiny.”
BOEM Director Abigail Hopper claimed the new online system was about “efficiency” as she announced the lease offering of 23.8 million acres in the western Gulf, which could produce up to 200 million barrels of oil and 938 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Burning those fossil fuels would send more than 137 million metric tons of carbon-equivalent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, roughly the same as operating 40 coal-fired power plants for a year.
“Streamlining the process of turning public waters into sacrifice zones for the fossil fuel industry isn’t the way to address the climate crisis or decades of environmental injustice in the Gulf,” said Blake Kopcho, an organizer with Center for Biological Diversity who has been working with Gulf groups. “This plan is an insult to everyone concerned about climate change and the frontline communities that are most heavily impacted by it.”
“If they think that this action is going to quiet us, they're wrong. Their action has only made us stronger and more united than ever before,” said Mary Gutierrez, executive director of Earth Ethics, Inc. “We will not be silenced. Our voices will be heard. No new leases!”
“If ‘efficiency’ was really Hopper’s prime concern, she wouldn’t be peddling offshore leases. She would be advocating weatherization of homes and installation of rooftop solar power systems,” said David Underhill with Mobile Bay Sierra Club.
“Instead of heeding the people's call across the country to end this dysfunctional system, Obama is subverting the democratic process even further with this move,” said Ruth Breech, senior campaigner with Rainforest Action Network. “President Obama, don't make it easier for corporations to plunder public waters and lands. End these destructive leases and keep it in the ground for people and the planet.”
“There is actually a silver lining to this travesty and omission of transparency, and that is our movement, our coalition — led by the amazing organizing and activism of the Gulf South community, who are literally fighting for their lives — is cutting through,” said Anthony Rogers-Wright, policy director with Environmental Action. “The fossil fuel empire has always been surreptitious and back-handed. We can now add ‘craven’ to the list of characterizations for these climate killers. The Gulf South will not be silenced, and the resistance will not be intimidated.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.