Protesters tell BLM to stop auctioning Wyoming public lands for oil and gas drilling

Protesters tell BLM to stop auctioning Wyoming public lands for oil and gas drilling

Obama administration called on to ‘Keep it in the Ground’

CHEYENNE, WY- Protestors with signs and banners staged a climate rally today outside of the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas lease sale in Cheyenne, urging President Obama to “Keep it in the Ground.”  The BLM’s “climate auction,” as protesters dubbed it, allowed industry to bid on more than 100,000 acres of publicly owned oil and gas in Wyoming, opening the door for millions of metric tons of carbon pollution

The rally is part of a rapidly growing national movement calling on President Obama to define his climate legacy by halting new federal fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans – a step that would keep up to 450 billion tons of potential carbon pollution- safely in the ground. Similar “Keep it in the Ground” protests are planned for upcoming auctions in Montana, Colorado, and Utah, and have already taken place in many other states.  Since November, protested lease sales have been postponed in Utah, Colorado, Montana and Washington, D.C.

“If we really want to effectively tackle the climate crisis, President Obama needs to halt all new fossil fuel leasing on federal public lands and oceans,” said Connie Wilbert, director of Sierra Club Wyoming Chapter. “The growing national movement to “keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground” clearly shows the public’s opposition to continuing to sell off federal coal, oil shale, natural gas, crude oil and tar sands on federal lands and oceans.”

Today’s climate auction in Cheyenne comes even as groups have formally appealed the lease sale and called for its cancellation. Both WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity filed appeals of the auction. The Bureau of Land Management has yet to respond.

“Climate action starts right here in Cheyenne, Wyoming and it starts with the Obama Administration putting the brakes on auctioning off our public lands for fracking,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ climate and energy program director.  “For our climate and our future, it’s time to rein in oil and gas drilling and keep our fossil fuels in the ground.” 

The climate auction in Cheyenne comes even as industry has declined precipitously in Wyoming. Last week, the state’s largest natural gas producer filed for bankruptcy.  According to the Bureau of Land Management, less than 40% of all 10.1 million acres of federal oil and gas leases are actually in production.

“Dirty energy companies profit off our shared heritage and leave toxic messes for the state to clean up. Companies like Anadarko and Encana make millions off of taxpayers, degrading thousands of acres, creating health problems for residents, and spewing massive climate change pollution into the air,” said Peter Dakota Molof, organizer at Rainforest Action Network. 

“No more corporate giveaways. No more health impacts on communities. President Obama, end fossil fuel leases today.”

Groups participating in today’s rally included the Sierra Club Wyoming Chapter, Rainforest Action Network, WildEarth Guardians, and others. 

Statements from Individuals and Groups

“President Obama has the power to keep these fossil fuels in the ground today, without congressional interference. From Wyoming to New Orleans to Houston and beyond, communities across the country are mobilizing to break free from fossil fuels and keep coal, oil and gas in the ground. Together, we will speed up the just transition to the 100% renewable energy economy necessary to protect our communities and our climate.”

-Jason Kowalski, U.S. policy director,[email protected], (202) 670-5345

“Scientists are telling us we need to keep the majority of fossil fuels in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate disruption. We are calling on President Obama to make sure the U.S. does its fair share to keep fossil fuels in the ground by ending new leasing on our public lands and waters.”

-Valerie Love, clean energy campaigner, Center for Biological Diversity, [email protected], (510) 274-9713 

“President Obama cannot claim climate leadership while continuing to lease fossil fuels. Our public lands should not be treated as energy sacrifice zones to the greed of Fossil Fuel Empires. To truly define his climate legacy, President Obama must stop all new lease sales of public fossil fuels and keep them in the ground.”

-Marissa Knodel, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, [email protected] 
(202) 222-0729

Images from today’s protest are available for media use here


Some 67 million acres of U.S. public lands are already leased to dirty fossil fuel industries, an area 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park, and containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. Nearly one quarter of all U.S. climate pollution already comes from burning fossil fuels from public lands. Remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion additional tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

In September, more than 400 organizations called on President Obama to end federal fossil fuel leasing. In November, Senators Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (D-Vt.) and others introduced legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Last month, the Obama administration placed a moratorium on federal coal leasing while the Department of the Interior studies its impacts on taxpayers and the planet. Since November 2015, in response to protests, the BLM has postponed oil and gas leasing auctions in Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.

Download the September “Keep It in the Ground” letter to President Obama.

Download Grounded: The President’s Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground (this report details the legal authorities with which a president can halt new federal fossil fuel leases).

Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels (this report quantifies the volume and potential greenhouse gas emissions of remaining federal fossil fuels).

Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet.

Download Public Lands, Private Profits (this report details the corporations profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands).

Download WildEarth Guardians’ formal petition calling on the Department of the Interior to study for the first time ever the climate impacts of the federal oil and gas leasing program and to place a moratorium on new leasing until completed that study is completed.


Expert contact:

Connie Wilbert, Sierra Club Wyoming Chapter, (307) 742-0056

Marissa Knodel, (202) 222-0729, [email protected]

Peter Dakota Molof, Rainforest Action Network, (971) 295-0887

Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 437-7663

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


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