Tag Archives: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

‘Keep It in the Ground’ Win: Utah Oil and Gas Auction Halted

Repost from the Center For Biological Diversity
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BLM postpones Utah auction to ‘accommodate’ climate activists

By Phil Taylor, E and E News, November 17, 2015

About the CenterThe Bureau of Land Management late last night announced it is postponing today’s scheduled oil and gas lease sale in Salt Lake City to appease activists who are fighting to keep those minerals in the ground.

BLM had planned to lease up to 37,580 acres scattered around the center of the Beehive State for future oil and gas development, but the agency said it needed more time to “better accommodate the high level of public interest in attending the sale.”

It marks the first time that the “Keep it in the Ground” climate movement — which seeks to end the sale of federally owned oil, gas and coal — has disrupted a BLM lease auction.

BLM said it intends to reschedule the sale in the “near future.”

“As a public agency, we understand the importance of transparency,” said BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall. “Given the large interest, we chose to postpone the sale and will be working to find the best way to accommodate the public and those who wish to attend and participate in the auction when it is held.”

It was the third consecutive BLM lease sale to be confronted by climate protesters who believe the burning of federally owned fossil fuels will undermine the nation’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Roughly 50 people gathered last week outside BLM’s Colorado headquarters in Lakewood to protest the agency’s sale of 90,000 acres in the Pawnee National Grassland, according to the Western Energy Alliance.

BLM moved forward with that auction, selling 106 parcels covering 83,534 acres for $5 million.

Protesters also demonstrated outside a Nov. 3 lease sale in Wyoming.

Crandall said there was not enough room in BLM’s downtown Salt Lake City auction room to accommodate members of the public who wanted to attend. The room is about 28 feet wide by 60 feet long and also has to accommodate up to 30 bidders and reporters, she said.

BLM planned to live-stream the auction, but many activists insisted on attending in person, she said.

The “Keep it in the Ground” campaign is backed by some major environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and is buoyed in Congress by legislation from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that would end new leasing and renewals of nonproducing federal leases for oil, coal and gas.

The movement is riding the momentum of President Obama’s recent rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline and Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s decision to abandon oil exploration in the Arctic Ocean. It now seeks to stop BLM from leasing fossil fuels in the West and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management from opening the Atlantic Ocean to offshore drilling.

In Salt Lake City this morning, roughly 40 activists displayed theatrical bidding paddles, held up photos of their grandkids and sang folk songs including John Prine’s “Paradise,” according to Tim Ream, an organizer from WildEarth Guardians who is based in San Francisco and attended this morning’s protest. Organizing groups included WildEarth, the Center for Biological Diversity, Women’s Congress for Future Generations, 350.org, the Rainforest Action Network and Elders Rising for Intergenerational Justice.

Ream said BLM informed him last week that some members of the public would be turned back from the auction room regardless of whether there was space. This morning’s protest was led primarily by older activists who had no intention of disrupting the sale, he said.

“They wanted to touch the hearts of those who are selling and buying our public lands,” he said. “They realized two years in prison is too high a price.”

Ream was referring to the two-year prison sentence handed down in 2011 to activist Tim DeChristopher for his decision to pose as a bidder at a BLM lease sale in Utah in late 2008 and snatch up $1.8 million in leases with no intention of paying for them.

Vaughn Lovejoy of the group Elders Rising was among those who attended this morning’s rally.

“We’d like to see if there’s a way to inspire my generation … to spend this piece of our life doing something for the future rather than hanging out on cruise ships or golf courses,” he said.

Ream said activists will also stage protests at BLM’s upcoming oil and gas lease sales in Reno, Nev., on Dec. 8 and in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 10. “We’re going to keep on hitting every one of these lease sales,” he said.

The American Petroleum Institute has criticized the movement and Merkley’s legislation as a “political stunt,” warning that halting federal sales of fossil fuels would hike energy costs and hurt the federal government’s coffers.

The Mineral Leasing Act requires BLM to hold regular oil and gas auctions.

Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at the Western Energy Alliance, whose members depend heavily on public lands leasing, said this morning that the Salt Lake City protesters are ignoring how increased production of natural gas has helped the nation transition away from coal that is more harmful to the climate when burned.

“Apparently, BLM is seeking a larger venue to accommodate the expected crowd of protesters whose goal is to disrupt the sale,” she said. “These same professional protesters bragged that they were traveling to other lease sales to try to disrupt them, but they’re on a fool’s errand.”

Sgamma noted that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has rebuffed the “Keep it in the Ground” movement as unrealistic.

“There are millions of jobs around the country that are dependent on these industries, and you can’t just cut it off overnight,” Jewell said in September during a breakfast organized by The Christian Science Monitor (Greenwire, Sept. 15).

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    Officials hope 1st US offshore wind farm will boost industry

    Repost from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

    Officials touring site of 1st US offshore wind farm hope milestone will boost industry

    By Jennifer McDermott, AP, July 27, 2015 — 3:00pm
    The first foundation jacket installed by Deepwater Wind in the nation’s first offshore wind farm construction project is seen Monday, July 27, 2015, on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Block Island, R.I. Deepwater Wind will consist of five turbines producing a total of 30 megawatts of electricity. STEPHAN SAVOIA — AP Photo

    NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Construction has begun off Rhode Island’s coast on the nation’s first offshore wind farm, a milestone that federal and state officials say will help the fledgling U.S. industry surge ahead.

    U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said Monday that lenders, regulators and stakeholders can now see a path forward.

    “It’s great to witness a pioneering moment in U.S. history,” she said during a boat tour of the site. “We are learning from this in what we do elsewhere. I think it will help the country understand the potential that exists here.”

    Deepwater Wind is building a five-turbine wind farm off Block Island, Rhode Island, which it expects to power 17,000 homes as early as next year. It began attaching the first of the steel foundations to the ocean floor Sunday. The first one touching the seabed is known in the industry as the “first steel in the water.”

    Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said it was a “spectacular” moment. The company took officials and project supporters to the site by boat Monday to celebrate.

    They saw the first of two steel pieces for the first foundation in the water. It has four legs and braces like a stool and rises about 30 feet above the waterline. An installation barge with a large crane was next to it, and two barges carrying additional foundation components were nearby. The foundations will be installed by mid-September, Grybowski said.

    The wind farm should be operational in the third quarter of 2016, Grybowski said. Deepwater Wind also plans to build a wind farm of at least 200 turbines between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard.

    “We want to build more and larger offshore wind projects, up and down the East Coast,” Grybowski said.

    Gov. Gina Raimondo said Rhode Island is a leader in a fast-growing industry that is creating jobs.

    “It’s the beginning of something great in Rhode Island,” Raimondo said.

    The offshore wind industry is far more advanced in Europe. Developers and industry experts say it has been slow to start in the U.S. because of regulatory hurdles, opposition from fossil fuel interests and the trials and tribulations of doing something for the first time.

    Cape Wind received approval five years ago to build the nation’s first offshore wind farm, a 130-turbine project off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. That project stalled after opponents challenged it in court.

    While there have been setbacks, Jewell said the federal government has now sold nine leases for offshore wind projects in federal waters. The government is poised to auction a new lease off New Jersey this year and is assessing potential sites off multiple states. The Block Island wind farm is in state waters.

    “This is an important first step, important momentum. A lot is happening across the country,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, director if the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

    One hurdle, however, is that the renewable energy industry has to fight, regularly, to keep the tax credits and incentives it has, while the well-established oil and gas industry has tax credits it no longer needs, Jewell said. She said that should change.

    Several environmental leaders also made the trip. Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said it was overwhelming to see the start of construction.

    “To see it in American waters fills me with patriotic pride,” he said. “This idea that we could create a new industry and tens of thousands of jobs, spur manufacturing and protect wildlife, it’s just an incredible opportunity.”

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