Monday, April 18, 2011

Action at the Department of Interior!

April 18, 2011

BREAKING: Activists Staging Sit-in at Dept. of Interior Demanding Phase Out of Fossil Fuels

Residents from Gulf Coast, Appalachia and interior West join students and climate justice activists in calling for more action on extractive industry.
For Immediate Release

Contact: Scott Parkin; on site mobile- 415-235-0596;
Henia Belalia; on site mobile- 510-529-8927

Photos: available upon request.

Washington D.C.—Hundreds of climate activists marched to the Department of the Interior’s headquarters today, with twenty people committing civil disobedience inside, calling for the abolition of offshore oil drilling, coal mining and tar sands extraction. Reclaim Power led hundreds from Lafayette Park to the agency’s headquarters in Washington D.C. the same day after Powershift, a mass youth climate conference, ended and 2 days before the one year anniversary of the BP Gulf Oil Disaster.

The Dept. of Interior has oversight over two agencies, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), which are responsible for the BP Oil Spill, mountaintop removal coal mining and tar sands oil drilling in southern Utah. Furthermore, the Dept. of Interior just opened up over 7,000 acres of land to industry for coal extraction in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

“Our demonstration today is to show that Wyoming might be small in population but mighty in heart,” said Kevin Uransky, a resident from Wyoming’s coalfields and member of High Country Rising Tide participating in the sit-in. “We don’t want to just stand by and allow big corporations to destroy our homes, our way of life, and some of last open, beautiful, and undeveloped terrain left in the United States. We want to show that Wyoming has a voice not to be drowned out by those of more represented states, we have a voice, we have an opinion, and we want to be heard.”

Reclaim Power is being led by residents of residents of the Gulf Coast, Appalachia and the interior West – regions directly impacted by heinous oil, gas and coal extractive industries. Participants are calling for the Obama Administration and the federal agency to phase out harmful mining and drilling practices and facilitate transitions to sustainable local energy systems.

“The Dept. of Interior has been allowing the killing of my community and Appalachia’s mountains by the coal industry for decades” said Junior Walk from Boone County, West Virginia. “King Coal has poisoned Appalachia with toxic water, toxic air and toxic waste. It’s time for real action, not merely political posturing. I commend these fiery activists taking risks and making change for our communities and the climate.”

“For all practical purposes, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast function as a third world resource colony within the US. For a hundred years, our people and ecosystems have been sacrificed to provide cheap energy and big profits,” said Devin Martin, a native Cajun from southern Louisiana. “We pay for the hidden costs of oil and gas with our health and our lives through air pollution, oil spills, and a completely corrupted state government. We already lose a football field of coastal marsh every 38 minutes, and now rising sea levels from climate change will put my home, including New Orleans, under water permanently.”

Reclaim Power also seeks to highlight the ruthless manner in which extractive industries are allowed to treat workers and the communities they operate in. “Obama’s administration allows oil and coal to make millions from the natural resources in our communities and leave behind nothing but misery,” said Ben Kessler of Rising Tide North Texas, a participant in the sit-in. “The 11 workers who died on BP’s oil rig and the 29 who perished in Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine were killed by the same thing; corporate greed. These deaths are not accidents. They are the direct result of these companies cutting corners in pursuit of profit. Obama and his Dept. of Interior are complicit in this.”

“It’s called “public land,” not “industry land” and in Utah public land is most valuable exactly the way it is,” said Ashley Anderson, co-founder of climate group Peaceful Uprising and a student at the University of Utah. “The Dept. of Interior will not be permitted to sacrifice public land to an outdated deadly industry. Residents in Utah intend to keep the carbon in its public lands in the ground. We warn the Dept. of Interior: dirty energy is the public’s enemy, and a friend of our enemy is our enemy.”

Obama’s Dept. of Interior allows the fossil fuel industry to run amok on eco-systems, communities, workers and local economies. Last year’s, Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 workers and spilled over 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The results have devastated local economies, fisheries and wetlands. Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining in which up to 800 feet, sometimes more, of densely forested mountaintops are literally blown up to reach thin coal seams. Already, 500 mountains and 2,000 miles of streams have been lost due to this devastating mining practice. It has been recently discovered that oil companies in southern Utah greatly exaggerated the acres of land to be developed for tar sands extraction from 60 to over 30,000. The 758 million tons of coal to be extracted from the four competitive leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin will be the equivalent of 300 new coal-fired power plants.

Today’s march and sit-in are a preview to Rising Tide North America’s “Day of Action against Extraction” happening in two days on April 20th, the anniversary of the BP Oil Spill. The day of action will feature protests by Gulf Coast residents fighting offshore drilling, Appalachians resisting mountaintop removal coal mining, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York residents opposing natural gas hydrofracking, Canadians fighting tar sands mining in Alberta, as well as other community groups engaged in fights against extractive industries. Protests are also planned for the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.

Reclaim Power’s and the April 20th’s Day of Action against Extraction demands include:

  • An immediate phase out of fossil fuel extraction and a just transition to truly sustainable forms of energy
  • Community control over natural resources
  • Recognizing the sovereignty of indigenous nations and their right to control resources on their lands.
  • Reparations from both state and corporate entities that have profited from extraction in order to fund ecological restoration, full health coverage, and sustainable livelihoods in impacted communities.

For more information please visit


Rising Tide North America is an all volunteer climate justice network with over 50 chapters and local contacts that works to confront the root causes of climate change.


  1. Well you guys rock. Sorry we weren't there to don the green hardhat and occupy the belly of the beast. We were, however, able to make it to BofA and remind everyone that "This bank robs YOU!"


  2. Thank you Henia and Scott for a well written and well executed tactic!

  3. That was an incredible experience for all of us. Not just those who were arrested but those who cheered them on from outside. The feeling of solidarity with each other and the experience of a shared movement was incredibly empowering. Seriously, people began to cry when we all sang "we shall overcome" for our brothers and sisters being led out to the squad cars. Unity. That's our power source. Building that unity is crucial to building the strength of our movement and that was one moment where that power was tapped into. Repeat, repeat, repeat!