One day after the chairman of FERC was forced from a stage at an energy meeting in New York, another contingent of “keep it in the ground” anti-fossil fuel development protesters took aim at a U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lease sale in Colorado on Thursday.
The protesters were promoting plans for an anti-hydraulic fracturing (fracking) rally in the state on Saturday.
About 200 activists from Colorado and surrounding states showed up outside a hotel in Lakewood, CO, carrying signs and banners, and physically blocking the entrance to a room where the BLM auction was to be held, a BLM spokesperson told NGI on Friday. The sale proceeded nevertheless, with six parcels totaling nearly 7,000 acres selling for a total of $5.2 million.
It was the last Colorado BLM lease sale scheduled until November, the spokesperson said.
While BLM lease sale disruptions are not new (see Daily GPI, Feb. 12), the level of confrontation has intensified as the frequency of the rallies has increased this year. The current Colorado push includes a varied array of activist groups that are opposed to fracking and seeking to get the Obama administration to ban oil/gas activity on public lands.
"When our political systems fail us, direct action is one of the few tools we have left," said Diana Best, an activist with Greenpeace in Colorado. "People here are finished with industry and government making us sick, polluting our communities, and destroying the land we love."
Some of the same activists have scheduled a rally in Thornton, CO, northeast of Denver, on Saturday to hear from environmental writer Bill McKibben as part of a national anti-fossil fuels campaign, the "Break Free 2016" movement.
A spokesperson for Denver-based oil/gas advocacy group Western Energy Alliance (WEA) said the two actions in Colorado are "a new phase of the climate movement,” part of a two-week intensification of the groups' anti-coal, -oil and -gas campaign.
"While their website references peaceful action, protests in recent days in other cities have been anything but," said WEA spokesperson Aaron Johnson, who cited an oil refinery blockade in Philadelphia, another blockade at a coal port in Australia, a mine invasion in Wales, and a bank occupation in New Zealand.
An extension of this trend came Wednesday when FERC Chairman Norman Bay had to be escorted away after protesters rushed the stage during his speech at a power producers conference in New York (see Daily GPI, May 12). A Facebook page for an anti-fossil fuel group depicted Bay speaking to a meeting of the Independent Power Producers of New York before he was interrupted by protesters holding banners and criticizing FERC.
The keep it in the ground movement kicked off last September following environmentalists' success in stopping the Keystone XL oil pipeline, with a focus on federal mineral lease sales, according to WEA, which has been tracking the activists' confrontational protests.
"To build the movement, organizers have spent months recruiting online, and the group '350.org' has provided training sessions to teach them how to commit acts of civil unrest and get arrested," Johnson said.
Some of the groups are also active in pushing proposed anti-oil/gas ballot measures in Colorado, Johnson said. (see Shale Daily, April 14).
With a focus on onerous federal regulations, WEA is not involved in the proposed ballot measures, but the pro-business Protect Colorado organization is directly engaged in the proposals that are seeking to qualify for the ballot in the next few months, Johnson said.
In the lease sale, BLM offered four parcels in the San Juan National Forest in the southwest part of the state, and the other two were in the northwestern section. All of the offered 6,960 acres were leased, drawing a $3 million bonus bid and a average bid of nearly $750/acre, the BLM spokesperson said.
Three of the six parcels were acquired by Englewood, CO-based Allen & Kirmse Ltd, which also offered the bonus and high ($1,175/acre) bids. The other three parcels went one each to Denver-based Colorado Energy Mineral Inc., Broomfield-based GRMR Oil and Gas LLC and Denver-based Contex Energy Co. LLC.