By Bill Quigley
Six Gulf Protectors were arrested outside the New Orleans office of the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. They were taken into custody by Federal Protection Service agents of the Department of Homeland Security during an action by Nonewleases.org urging President Obama to cancel oil drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
“We began the event in solidarity with those from the Sioux Nation who are standing up to the Dakota Access pipeline,” said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, one of the organizations participating. “As Gulf Protectors we are calling on President Obama to live up to his climate legacy and permanently cancel future leases in the Gulf of Mexico.”
The six arrested were: Alicia Cooke, Danil Faust, Alison Kalnik, Ben Quimby, Noah Rahman, and Reverend Jim Vanderweele. Booked on federal charges of obstructing an entrance to a federal building, they were advised they have to each pay a fine of $530 or go before federal court for trial.
Alicia Cooke, a member of 350 Louisiana, explained why she was willing to be arrested. “To maintain a livable climate, experts estimate that around 80% of existing fossil fuel resources must stay in the ground. At current consumption levels, we need to place an immediate moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure projects and we also must scale back on existing projects. The industry and government executives who dismiss our concerns out of hand because we drive fuel-powered vehicles or use air conditioning are missing the point. A transition to a renewable energy economy at the speed required by science will not be easy for any of us. It will take a full-hearted acceptance of climate science and an enormous collective will. But when you look at the climate math, it is quite literally our only choice.”
Iris Carter of Concerned Citizens of Norco explained why she was there to protect the Gulf. “Oil is killing people. Just look at my own family. I grew up between a Shell refinery and a Shell chemical plant and when my mother and sister got sick, the doctors asked if we lived near pollution. It’s not fair. And now people have to go and fish in the Gulf - after oil companies leave all that mess. Look what they left from the spill that BP did. That was bad. And it’s no better. They keep going out and drilling and spilling in our Gulf. And that’s just not right.”
Cheri Fotlin of BOLD Louisiana challenged the feds for excluding the public. “The head of BOEM, Abigail Hopper, had promised to come down and meet directly with our communities who continue to be adversely affected by oil production in and along the Gulf. At the last minute, she backed out. Additionally, BOEM recently stopped allowing public participation at point-of-sale lease auctions. At every turn our voices have been oppressed by this federal agency. We deserve to be heard. If she won’t come to us, then we have no choice but to go to BOEM ourselves to make our wishes known. We want protection. We want respect for our lives. No new leases, not here, not anywhere!”
Four others were arrested in August at the same place and charged with state criminal trespass. Their trial is still pending.
The group promises to return and escalate their actions to protect the Gulf.