Offshore drilling opponents rally outside D.C. hearing

Offshore drilling opponents rally outside D.C. hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) appeared yesterday with a crowd of concerned citizens from around the country at a rally in Washington to oppose offshore drilling. The gathering took place outside a public meeting hosted by the Obama Administration collecting public input on its 2017-2022 oil and gas leasing program.

The Administration’s plan excludes the Atlantic Ocean from leasing for the next five years – a significant development. However, it leaves the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico vulnerable to future oil and gas drilling.

The group gathered outside the public meeting to celebrate the recent victory over Big Oil in the Atlantic Ocean and called on President Obama to use his authority to permanently protect the pristine Arctic and Atlantic oceans by removing them from not just this 5-year program but all future oil and gas leasing, and to initiate a plan to transition the Gulf of Mexico away from fossil fuels and onto a clean energy economy.

The movement to stop offshore drilling has mobilized millions of Americans across the country calling on President Obama to protect the climate and coastal communities by ending offshore drilling and keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

Also addressing the rally were representatives from frontline Arctic and Atlantic coast communities, as well as Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune and Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus. The event was organized by a coalition of groups including, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, Alaska Wilderness League, Hip Hop Caucus, Center for Biological Diversity, Environment America, Friends of the Earth U.S., Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Greenpeace USA, Rainforest Action Network, Redoil, and Bold Alliance.

Franz Matzner, Director, Beyond Oil Initiative, Natural Resources Defense Council: “This is a profound opportunity for President Obama to change the way we think about drilling and climate change.  With the stroke of a pen, he can chart the course for our children and grandchildren for all time, by removing the Arctic and Atlantic from future oil and gas leasing altogether, not just in five year increments.”

Marissa Knodel, Climate Campaigner, Friends of the Earth: “President Obama cannot allow his climate legacy to be five more years of dangerous offshore drilling. He must stop handing our public waters to the highest corporate bidder to pad their profits. The Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Ocean deserve permanent protection, not to be treated as energy sacrifice zones. President Obama must end leases and keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

Leah Donahey, Arctic Ocean Campaign Director, Alaska Wilderness League: “Opening up the Arctic Ocean in the offshore program takes us in the wrong direction for our climate. This action could hinder the goals set in Paris and reverse our course towards protecting the Arctic and our nation from the impacts of climate change. Instead of opening the Arctic to potential new drilling, the president should be working to protect it by taking any new Arctic leasing off the table for good.”

Bernadette Demientieff, Acting Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee: “Our children deserve to see the world as it was in the beginning, and not just when we are done using it. I traveled here from Fairbanks Alaska to share the same message I gave to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) there: we must not allow new drilling in the Arctic Ocean. We can’t think just about the present day, we have to think about our climate and the future generations who will need Mother Earth. Our ancestors took care of the Earth for us, and now it is our responsibility to take care of her. Allowing more Arctic Ocean drilling is not a way to respect our earth and take care of her for the future.”

Besse Odom, Anchorage NAACP Youth Council Vice President: “Where one is suffering , it is only natural to be sympathetic but we must take this response a tad bit further and put action with it. Sympathy is not enough without an action to follow through with it. So when our brothers and sisters from the Gwich’in nation are crying out for help because  their way of life could be  jeopardized by the presence of big oil companies – we must aid them, not only with our sympathy, but we must aid them with our actions.”

Cherri Foytlin, Bold Louisiana: “For decades the oil industry has been given a free pass to commit violence against our communities in the form of pollution, ecological damages and devastating health effects.  By ending the leasing of Gulf public waters, and instead providing for and encouraging investment in a healthy, clean and just transition away from fossil fuels, this administration can break the Big Oil cycle of abuse that we are experiencing to this day.”

Rachel Richardson, Environment America: “More drilling and spilling would worsen the climate crisis; threaten the fragile Arctic; and further harm the Gulf, which is still suffering after the devastation of the BP disaster. President Obama has done right by the Atlantic. Now he should do right by the Gulf, the Arctic, and our kids’ future by dropping plans for new drilling, and keeping all fossil fuels in the ground.”

David Turnbull, Campaigns Director at Oil Change International: “Offshore drilling is simply inappropriate, if not disastrous, if we have any hope of living up to the Paris climate agreement and tackling the climate crisis. President Obama desperately needs to align our energy policy with the climate imperatives, and when he does he will see that offshore drilling clearly fails the climate test.”

Alex Taurel, Deputy Legislative Director, League of Conservation Voters: “Offshore drilling is a dirty and dangerous business that threatens our beaches, our communities, and our climate.  We commend President Obama for removing the Atlantic leases from his five-year offshore drilling plan after listening to the voices of east coast communities, businesses, and elected officials concerned about drilling’s risks to their beaches and coastal economies.  Now we hope he will seize this opportunity to expand his climate leadership by permanently protecting the pristine Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from drilling and by initiating a transition in the Gulf of Mexico toward 100 percent clean energy.  The fact is that our public lands and waters, such as these oceans, ought to be managed in the public’s best interest, which means not issuing permits to drill and burn oil that will make climate change worse and divert our focus away from our transition to clean energy.”      


Expert contact: Marissa Knodel, (202) 222-0729, [email protected] 
Communications contact: Kate Colwell, (202) 222-0744, [email protected] 


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