‘Keep it in the ground’: Environmentalists gather in DC, demand end to oil drilling on public land

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A group of more than 40 protesters gathered in front of the White House in a demonstration against the Department of the Interior, demanding that President Barack Obama end the practice of leasing public lands for fossil fuel extraction.

Protesters representing communities in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming all gathered in front of the Department of the Interior on Thursday. More than 40 people participated in the “Keep it in the Ground” campaign, and some were arrested.

Referring to themselves as “protectors, not protesters” the group aimed to occupy the Department of the Interior to protest lease sales. The protest was also meant to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, according to a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity.

The purpose of the action was to build off of the momentum gained from a protest against the sale of 23 million offshore acres in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf region has been hit particularly hard by the oil industry following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that leaked 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf. In May, an incident at a Shell oil facility resulted in 90,000 gallons of crude oil spilling into the same ecosystem.

This was followed by historic levels of flooding that affected Southern Louisiana over the summer. Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade attended the protest, because she felt that the government had not been acknowledging the problems climate change has caused.

Rolfes told RT, “I’m from South Louisiana and just last month our state was flooded by floods those meteorologists say were because of climate change. President Obama came down to console us about the flooding, yet didn’t say a word about the cause.”

It’s time for him to be the leader on climate that he says that he is, so we’re here delivering over a million signatures to President Obama telling him that the American people want to stop using fossil fuels, want to stop getting fossil fuels out of our national lands and he can make that happen,” Rolfes concluded.

In 2015, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) introduced the Keep It in the Ground Act of 2015 to the Senate. The bill has yet to be voted on, but in November, when Obama nixed the Keystone Pipeline XL, he released a statement saying, “ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.