Paid Protesters on Tour
by Aaron Johnson, Manager of Communications on November 13, 2015 - 7:01am
Using every avenue available to protest fossil fuel development, national environmental groups are now organizing protests of routine oil and natural gas lease auctions held by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). About 50 people gathered early Thursday morning at the BLM office in Denver protesting an auction of 90,000 acres in the Pawnee National Grasslands (PNG).
Objections from environmentalists had already held up PNG leasing for several years. Even though groups already had numerous opportunities to engage in the formal public comment process, they proceeded to rally and block off the street entrance to the BLM office.
Billed as a “Keep It In The Ground” rally, the protest was organized by 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, Food and Water Watch, Rainforest Action Network and other well-funded environmental lobbying organizations. These anti-fossil fuel proponents carried signs demanding “Don’t Auction Our Climate,” “Keep it in the Ground,” “Don’t Frack Our Home,” and “End Fracking.”
The rally was kicked off with remarks from 350.org and Food and Water Watch, but those from Rainforest Action Network (RAN) spokesperson Ruth Breech were the most revealing. In her effort to energize the crowd, she boasted that she came from California and the group was going to continue on to other states holding similar lease sales in Nevada and Utah.
This rally was coordinated by professional protesters and is one stop in a national campaign to oppose fossil fuels.
They’re so focused on keeping hydrocarbons in the ground, they don’t have a care about local environmental conditions or plans worked out by local communities. Motivated to halt all fossil fuel production and ignorant of actual conditions on the ground that show leasing will in reality reduce the environmental impact of oil and natural gas development already occuring around the PNG.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) completed the analysis that explains how leasing federal minerals in the PNG will actually reduce the number of wells sites by at least 10% and enable centralized facilities that reduce surface disturbance. Because of the patchwork of federal and private lands around the PNG, allowing access to federal minerals will help producers more efficiently operate through, instead of around, the checker board of different land ownership. The leases have “No Surface Occupancy” restrictions, which means development will be beneath the surface but not directly on federal lands.
But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good protest. To paid protesters, these environmentally protective plans worked out through a lengthy public process that balance economic growth with environmental protection are irrelevant. It’s much simpler to make a scene by shouting, waving signs and blocking traffic at rallies across the West.