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Residents demand no new offshore oil leases in Gulf of Mexico

Posted Mar. 16, 2016 / Posted by: Kate Colwell

Hundreds to rally against March 23 lease sale at New Orleans Superdome

NEW ORLEANS, La. — For the first time ever, hundreds of Gulf Coast residents are joining forces with local and national environmental and social justice groups to oppose a federal offshore fossil fuel lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. The proposed lease of 43 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to develop as much as 965 million barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is the largest single offering by the Obama administration. Today, the coalition sent a letter to President Obama requesting the sale’s cancellation as it prepares for an unprecedented March 23 demonstration at the Superdome, where the bids will be announced.

The letter, signed by 47 groups, states that sales of publicly owned fossil fuels contribute significantly to global carbon emissions and counteract the Obama administration’s pledges to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. Offshore drilling threatens the well-being of Gulf Coast communities and wildlife. Coalition members will also gather at a public hearing on March 17 in New Orleans to oppose the proposed sale of another 47.4 million acres in the Central Gulf for oil and gas drilling, scheduled for March 2017.

Fighting new offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico, long an epicenter of the fossil fuel industry, represents a new front for an environmental movement that has recently focused on stopping offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The Obama administration just released its 2017-2022 plan for offshore fossil fuel development, which took the Atlantic off the table but proposed three leases for the Arctic and 10 for the Gulf.

The Superdome rally will build off the momentum of the national Keep It in the Ground movement, which has used direct action to block federal auctions of drilling rights on public lands across the country over the past year. Gulf residents are also demanding the industry create at least 1,000 jobs to address its aging infrastructure and toxic legacy, particularly in communities of color.

Details on the Superdome event and Gulf organizing effort can be found at www.nonewleases.org.

Statements from groups and letter signatories:

“The people in the Gulf Coast are finally waking up to the utter destruction of handing over our Gulf of Mexico to Big Oil. Oil spills, a destroyed coast and seafood in peril is what has come from drilling over the last fifty years,” said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “We are making a historic call for no new drilling in our Gulf of Mexico. Like the people of the West Coast and Atlantic Coast, we are standing up for ourselves, our future and the future of this planet.”

“It’s decision making time. Some well-meaning folks say that the choice is between jobs or the planet. That’s just not true. It’s between just survive, like we’ve been doing, or thrive. I want my kids to thrive, and that means creating systems of longevity for them. Fossil fuels just aren’t that,” said Cherri Foytlin with Bridge the Gulf and Idle No More.

“The marine environment, our coastal communities, our seafood and really, the entire planet are under assault by oil and gas operations in the Gulf,” said Jonathan Henderson with New Orleans-based Vanishing Earth. “Everyday, oil is leaking and toxic fracking chemicals are being dumped offshore, while some 27,000 abandoned wells are ticking time bombs.”

“East Coast communities rose up against offshore oil drilling and the Atlantic was protected. The lesson is that public action matters. Now we need to demand no new leases in the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico, to protect our climate, wildlife and coastal communities,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center of Biological Diversity.

“Expanding offshore oil and gas development comes with significant risks that are nearly impossible to avoid or mitigate,” said Marissa Knodel, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Our message is simple: The Gulf Coast should not be treated as an energy sacrifice zone, but a place worthy of protection for present and future generations to experience and enjoy.”

"From the BP drilling disaster to the loss of coastal wetlands the size of Delaware, the Gulf has already paid too high a price for our nation's oil addiction," said Aaron Viles with Care2.com. "We're standing alongside over 65,000 Care2 members who have asked the Administration to admit all carbon is connected, and end new oil leasing in the Gulf of Mexico."

"Tomorrow is today. Now is the time to diversify the Gulf's economy, creating and investing in clean and inclusive economic development,” said Jackie Antalan, director of outreach & programs with Operation HomeCare, Inc.

“In a chilling foretelling, BP nicknamed its own Deepwater Horizon oil drilling lease ‘Macondo,’ the cursed town of mirrors in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ 100 Years of Solitude, and the story of generations doomed to repeat history,” said Janet MacGillivray, Esq. with Indigena. “We are here on 3/23 to stop the next generation of oil and gas leases, break the curse and unite with communities to claim a fossil free future.”

“Turning over even more of our public waters to Big Oil is a step backward,” said Allison Fisher, outreach director of Public Citizen’s Climate and Energy Program. “Less, not more drilling in the Gulf, is required to reduce the risk of catastrophic spills, protect coastal communities and achieve significant cuts in U.S. carbon pollution.”

“The people of the Gulf and citizens across the nation are no longer willing to make the Gulf of Mexico a national sacrifice zone for the fossil fuel industry,” said David Helvarg, executive director of Blue Frontier. “It’s time to stop drilling and spilling and move on to job-generating clean energy. Besides, no wind spill ever destroyed a beach or a bayou.”

“The Gulf of Mexico has been devastated by negligent oil companies and continues to be plundered for profit. President Obama, stop these corporate giveaways and protect the Gulf for the safety, health and economy of Gulf Coast people, its ecosystems, and for our climate," said Ruth Breech, senior campaigner at Rainforest Action Network.

“We cannot continue selling our children and grandchildren’s future to the fossil fuel companies.  The Gulf, or any biodiverse ecosystem, should not be sacrificed for oil and gas development, said Shelley Silbert, executive director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. Public lands and waters need to be the solution to climate change, not the problem. These are places to celebrate and leave intact to sustain the health of our planet.” 

"International climate deals are meaningless if they don’t result in keeping fossil fuels in the ground. This fossil fuel auction is a test of President Obama’s resolve. Will he stand with local communities fighting for a just transition to clean energy, or a fossil fuel industry motivated only by greed? Climate leadership means keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and under the sea," said Jason Kowalski, policy director at 350.org.

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Contacts:
Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, (504) 452-4909, anne@labucketbrigade.org
Cherri Foytlin, Bridge the Gulf, (334) 462-4484, foytlinfam@cox.net
Jonathan Henderson, Vanishing Earth, (504) 453-1375, Jonathan@vanishingearth.org 
Steve Jones, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7140, sjones@biologicaldiversity.org
Marissa Knodel, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0729, mknodel@foe.org

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