Over 100 Disrupt BLM Oil and Gas Lease Sale
February 16, 2016
Salt Lake City, UT
As Part of BLM Fossil Fuel Auction Protest, Author Terry Tempest Williams Buys Parcels
Today, over one hundred people erupted into song and disrupted the Utah Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) oil and gas lease sale in Salt Lake City, Utah. The auction was then closed to the public as the entire audience was escorted outside.
Activist and author, Terry Tempest Williams, attended and purchased several parcels totaling 1,751 acres in Grand County, Utah through a company she formed called Tempest Exploration. One was an 800 acre parcel 14 miles from and within view of Arches National Park that was leased for $1.50 / acre / year.
The group of grassroots organizations, 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 the parcels, 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 all new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans.
In recent months, local residents and activists in Utah and in states across the country have protested outside BLM fossil fuel auctions. Since November, in response to protests, the BLM 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.”
Local organizers comment on the day’s activities:
Vaughn Lovejoy, Elders Rising.
“I was truly awed to witness the spontaneous singing which filled the room temporally halting the auction. We were then told we must quit singing or we would have to leave the room. We chose to continue to sing as we were escorted out of the auction. As I listened I could not help but feel that I was listening to a song arising from the very heart of Mother Earth. A cosmic song of compassion and love. In that moment I simply wished that my grandchildren could be there to experience the magic that arises when people come together to serve our beautiful common home.”
Lauren Wood, Green Riverkeeper Affiliate, Living Rivers
“Today our local community flexed our power through and connected to a global resistance to fossil fuels. Like the rivers we protect, this movement will continue to connect our struggles until we are able to fully recognize how powerful people are compared to a destructive industry.”
Kaitlin Butler, Women’s Congress for Future Generations
“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”
Cindy Lewis of Wasatch Rising Tide.
“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.”
Jane Butter, Canyon Country Rising Tide
“This morning, my mom and I were fortunate enough to sit together in intergenerational solidarity at a BLM oil and gas lease auction in downtown SLC. We began to fill with tears as our public land was casually auctioned off at $2.00 an acre. In the packed auction room with us were a hundred others. We were all there to say no to fossil fuels; to the blatant and continued ignorance of the pressing realities of climate change; and to destroying the futures of our children and grandchildren. Our grief and tears quickly turned to song, as the others joined us in disrupting the auction with our voices and our hearts. We will not sit silently by. We will continue to put our bodies and our voices in the way. Eventually we were escorted out of the auction by police for speaking our truth, for articulating our vision and dreams for the world. But we’ll be back next time. We will be back every time. With more people and more songs, we will continue to fight for a just and sustainable world together. Our movement, our power, and our love will continue to grow until we see this all the way through.“
Images from today’s protest are available for media use here:
Check out a video of the auction: