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Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

The Auction Action
distributed 5/6/16 - ©2016

The carefully planned civil disobedience actions of "Break Free from Fossil Fuels" are spreading around the world this month.

The first of these actions was in Wales, where 400 red-suited activists shut down the UK's largest open-pit coal mine for 12 hours. The photos of their red line snaking across the mine floor and past huge equipment provide a vivid picture of the movement's goals.

In six days, the Break Free movement comes to my home in Colorado, with the first of two events. Next Thursday, our crowd of people will take a bold stand to keep fossil fuels in the ground ... at a suburban Holiday Inn.

The photos from a motel parking lot are not likely to become icons of the global movement. Our message is harder to convey -- and it is just as important as halting mine operations in Wales.

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We're going to the Holiday Inn to disrupt an auction. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) -- part of the US Department of the Interior -- plans to sell oil and gas leases for six parcels of federal lands in the State of Colorado.

The parcels, totaling about 11 square miles, are in western Colorado. The parcels were nominated by the oil and gas companies that want to drill on them. These "competitive auctions" often have no competing bids.

The BLM says, "As lessee, you may explore and drill for, extract, remove, and dispose of oil and gas deposits, except helium, that you may find on your lease." Actually, "may" is not the correct term. Once the leases are sold, the lease holder is effectively required to drill for, and produce, oil and gas. (Drilling does need to meet various environmental and archeological conditions.)

The BLM does not allow individuals or organizations to purchase these leases in order to keep the parcels out of production. You can't buy a lease, and say, "I'm not going to use it." Those who want to protect a particular site from drilling, or who want to slow the use of fossil fuels, are prohibited from participating in this economic market.

The auction scheduled for next Thursday, then, will guarantee that more wells are drilled in Colorado, and more oil and gas produced. Once those fossil fuels are taken out of the ground, they will be burned, and more carbon dioxide will be added to the atmosphere.

There already are 50,000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado. The auction would guarantee that even more wells would soon go into production.

The idiocy of holding this auction should be obvious -- but apparently the BLM and the Department of the Interior haven't figured that out. Auctioning off new leases is a direct contradiction of other US goals and policies.

Last December, the US played a leading role in negotiating the Paris Accord. Two weeks ago, 175 nations, including the US, signed the Accord, indicating our commitment to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. It will be possible to keep below 2 degrees only if we slash our use of fossil fuels.

On one hand, the US government knows that we must stop using oil and gas. On the other hand, that same government is planning to hold an auction that would require the production of even more fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, the policies that lead to ever-more production and use of fossil fuels have far more momentum than the policies that would cut fossil fuel use. The BLM in Colorado "holds oil and gas lease sales four times per year, as required by the Mineral Leasing Act, when eligible lands are available for leasing." The idiocy continues on a very predictable basis.

But we don't have time to allow that predictable schedule to continue. The pace of climate distortion is accelerating at a frightening rate, driven by business-as-usual policies. Two recent posts to the authoritative Wunderground blogs point out the crisis. "Atmospheric CO2 Leaps into Uncharted Territory: 408 ppm" and "Warmest March in Global Recordkeeping; 2016 Roars Ahead of Pack".

We're racing toward self-destruction, and the BLM auction of oil and gas leases accelerates the destruction. The auctions must stop. The idiocy must stop.

So, next Thursday afternoon, we will be at the Holiday Inn, telling the BLM to leave it in the ground. Next week, we raise the volume, and stop being so polite. Because the stakes are far too high to sit back and let the destruction continue on schedule.

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Eco-Justice Ministries has been actively involved in planning the two Break Free events in Colorado. We encourage our local constituents to consider participating in one or both of these events.

  • On Thursday, May 12, people will gather at noon near the Lakewood Holiday Inn.

  • On Saturday, May 14, we will mobilize in Thornton, Colorado, to protect a community working to defend itself from fracking. The day-long event will include inspiring speakers (including Bill McKibben, very early in the day!), live music, and fun activities for kids of all ages. A Solutions Voyage Fair with booths and workshops will teach more about transitioning off fossil fuels and creating the world we all want to see.

Find more details on these two events, and links to RSVP, at co.breakfree2016.org

The red line of protesters snaking across the Welsh coal mine is a powerful picture. The crowds of people that we gather at the Holiday Inn and in Thornton may not have the same visual impact, but we will be just as powerful in our practical and political impact.

Join us next week in Colorado, or join a Break Free action near you.

Shalom!

Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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