Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 23, 2016

Contact:  Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, (504) 452-4909
Dani Heffernan,, (305) 992-1544
Steve Jones, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 305-3866

Four Arrested at Louisiana BOEM Office Delivering Petitions Demanding
President Obama Cancel Offshore Drilling Lease Sale

NEW ORLEANS— Three Gulf of Mexico residents and an ally from the Center for Biological Diversity were arrested this morning at the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s office in New Orleans while delivering petitions demanding that President Obama cancel Wednesday’s lease sale for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier this morning the debris from flood-damaged homes in the Baton Rouge area was placed in front of the BOEM office doors with a banner reading “President Obama: More Drilling = More Floods,” underscoring the agency’s role in perpetuating the climate crisis. President Obama arrived in Baton Rouge this morning to address those affected by flooding.

Offshore drilling protest

Photo by Genny Roman. Photos are available for media use.

“My heart is filled with both a deep sadness and deep anger — at the fossil fuel companies driving this ongoing crisis, and at an administration that continues to sell them the right to do so,” said Cherri Foytlin, Gulf Coast mother of six and state director of Bold Louisiana, in a petition letter to President Obama launched last week. “The fact that this fossil fuel auction is set to take place in the New Orleans Superdome — the site of one of the most visible and tragic instances of climate injustice in recent history — is nothing short of insulting.”

BOEM, which oversees offshore leases for the Obama administration, is scheduled to auction off an area the size of Virginia to the fossil fuel industry for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday. A new study released by the Center and other organizations today finds that burning fossil fuels under unleased federal waters in the Gulf would release 33 billion tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of running 9,500 coal-fired power plants for a year.

“The brave activists arrested today are part of a vast and fast-growing national movement calling for real action on climate change, including a halt to new fossil fuel leasing,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center. “If President Obama is going to make good on his promise to address this crisis, he should start with cancelling this lease sale in New Orleans and starting a rapid transition to safer, smarter energy sources.”

From its disappearing wetlands below rising waters to the catastrophic pollution of oil spills, the Gulf Coast has been at the forefront of climate impacts. Meteorologists and climate scientists have tied the recent flooding directly to climate change. Burning fossil fuels, including the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, warms the climate, which causes the air to hold more moisture. This, in turn, causes more rainfall and flooding. For any chance of curbing these impacts and preventing worse, President Obama must cancel all proposed offshore drilling and keep fossil fuels in the ground.

“While climate change affects everyone, communities of color and low-income communities continue to be hit hardest by the lasting impacts of climate disasters,” said Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “That’s true in the Gulf Coast, and it’s made worse by the fossil fuel industry’s destructive projects in the region. Thousands of oil spills, sinking lands, and extreme weather creating turmoil for countless people. What more will convince the Obama administration to stop treating the Gulf like a sacrifice zone to fossil fuel interests?”

In March a coalition of Gulf Coast residents and national organizations interrupted BOEM’s offshore drilling auction at the Superdome in New Orleans, calling again for President Obama to cancel it. Since then, the Bureau announced that its lease sale on Wednesday will be livestreamed online, closing it to the public’s presence for the first time. This lease sale is scheduled to be held in the morning at the Superdome behind locked doors.

“As a mother and a teacher, I’m standing up for my children and all other children in the world,” said Renate Heurich, a resident of New Orleans and a member of the group arrested at BOEM’s offices. “If we want to give them any chance to have a livable climate, we need to keep the vast majority of all known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. When BOEM sells the Gulf, they are selling our children’s future.”

For the latest information about the action, follow Louisiana Bucket Brigade (@labucketbrigade) and 350 Louisiana (@350Louisiana) on Facebook and Twitter, or follow the hashtag #nonewleases.

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