Large-Scale Protest and Activism by Prominent Author
Ups the Ante on “Keep it in the Ground” Activism
On February 16, 2016, over 100 local activists protested at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oil and gas lease auction in Utah and author and activist Terry Tempest Williams attended and purchased several parcels totaling 1,751 acres in Grand County, Utah through a company she formed called Tempest Exploration. The group of activists, representing a broad-reaching alliance of community members, packed and overflowed the auction room. They rallied and marched outside, and then came into the auction, spontaneously singing songs as the parcels were auctioned off until they were forced to leave.
After Williams bought up parcels at $1.50/acre, she was asked by a BLM official if this was “a legitimate bid for energy development.”
“Yes,” she replied. “You can’t define what energy is for us. Our energy development is fueling a movement. Keep it in the ground.”
Today’s protest and Williams’ actions are yet another sign of the growing energy and momentum of the “Keep It in the Ground” movement calling on President Obama to define his climate legacy by stopping new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans.
In recent months, local citizens and activists in Utah and in states across the country have protested outside BLM fossil fuel auctions. Since November, in response to protests, the Obama Administration has canceled oil and gas leasing auctions in Utah, Montana, and Washington, DC, and this strategy has already gained the attention of leaders in Congress, in the Obama Administration, and on the 2016 campaign trail.
“The protests of today’s auction are another sign that the days of un-resisted fossil fuel development are over,” said Tim DeChristopher, who was arrested and imprisoned for 21 months for disrupting a BLM auction in 2008. “The public is clearly against the leasing of fossil fuels on public lands, and they are charting a path for political leaders to follow.”
“Terry Tempest Williams is one of the West’s most passionate and eloquent voices for wildness and the sublime importance of unspoiled open spaces,” said Amanda Starbuck, Climate and Energy Program Director at Rainforest Action Network. “Today, she has taken a powerful stand for all of us by helping to expose the broken and outdated system of leasing our public lands to dirty energy companies for pennies on the dollar. Rainforest Action Network offers our full support to Terry’s bold call to keep fossil fuels in the ground in Utah and beyond.”
“The West—and the planet—have no greater champion than Terry Tempest Williams, in her writing, and as today, in her many actions. She’s been decades ahead of the rest of us in her fight for a stable Earth,” said Bill McKibben, 350.org Co-Founder.
“Citizens are our last line of defense against the fossil fuel industry. We salute Terry Tempest Williams for protecting public lands in Utah today, and the citizens of Utah who are speaking out for our health and climate,” said Jennifer Krill, executive director of Earthworks. “President Obama, they are sending a message to you: keep fossil fuels in the ground.”
“All of us at Friends of the Earth commend Terry Tempest Williams for her brave action to protect our public lands from Fossil Fuel Empires and keep fossil fuels in the ground,” said Marissa Knodel, Climate Campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “The lands being auctioned today belong to all of us and should not be sacrificed for the profits of the oil and gas industry. Williams and the over 100 activists who protested today’s oil and gas auction demonstrated the growing energy of the Keep It in the Ground movement in Utah and across the country. The movement will not stop until our publicly owned fossil fuels are kept in the ground for good.”
“As one of the activists removed from Tuesday’s auction, I applaud Terry Tempest Williams’ action to buy up lease parcels,” said Valerie Love of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We have a right to bear witness as the federal government auctions off our climate future by leasing public lands and fossil fuels belonging to all of us. We will continue to rally, sing and protest until President Obama halts these auctions once and for all.”
“Today we saw people spontaneously seize power and take action together. The BLM can expect more of this as long as they continue to jeopardize our future by auctioning off our health and climate stability,” said Sarah Stock of Canyon Country Rising Tide.
“Today our local community flexed our power through spontaneous singing and connected to a global resistance against fossil fuels. Like the rivers we protect, this movement will continue to connect our struggles until we are able to fully recognize how very powerful people are compared to this industry bent on destroying us,” said Lauren Wood, with the Riverkeeper Affiliate, Living Rivers.
“Today we witnessed a groundswell of solidarity from a broad spectrum of local organizers coming together to fight for a livable future. Today we also witnessed thousands of acres of land being sold to the oil and gas industry without the consent of the public. Sometimes we have to stop and name the sorrows, trace them to their root. The Women’s Congress for Future Generations calls on those fighting for a livable future to join us in visiting the land, to bear witness, to grieve. Our grief will serve as a compass for the hard, important work ahead to Keep It In The Ground,” said Kaitlin Butler, Program Director with Science and Environmental Health Network and Women’s Congress for Future Generations.
“Today’s heroic action by Ms. Williams effectively transformed a public process designed to enrich private corporations by giving them cheap access to public resources into one that inspires grassroots action on climate,” said Donna Lisenby, Clean & Safe Energy Campaign Manager with Waterkeeper Alliance. “Waterkeeper Alliance salutes Ms. Williams and all of the activists at the fossil fuel auction in Utah today. Together we will continue to pressure the Obama administration to make good on the U.S. Paris commitments by keeping U.S. fossil fuels in the ground.”
“We cannot continue selling our children and grandchildren’s future to the fossil fuel companies. We stand with Terry Tempest Williams in protest of new energy lease sales on public lands,” said Shelley Silbert, Executive Director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “Our Utah Greater Wasatch chapter joined in unison with Terry today to say ‘Keep it in the Ground’ – public lands need to be the solution to climate change, not the problem.”
Valerie Love, firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-274-9713
Amanda Starbuck, email@example.com, (415) 659-0510
Jason Kowalski, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.670.5345
Marissa Knodel, email@example.com, (202) 222-0729
Hilary Lewis, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-887-1872 x. 101
Lesley Adams, email@example.com, 541-821-3882
Shelley Silbert, firstname.lastname@example.org, 970-385-9577