By Melissa Garcia
LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Oil and gas rights on 90,000 acres of Colorado’s public land went up for auction Thursday. Dozens of protesters showed up, demanding to “keep it in the ground.”
The Bureau of Land Management holds auctions four times per year for underground mineral rights. According to officials, Thursday’s auction marked the first time that protesters have blocked off traffic at the bureau’s main entrance.
As protesters held signs outside, buyers gathered inside the building to make bids on parcels. The acres are on public land, most of which lies in Weld County’s Pawnee National Grasslands.
Activists from more than a dozen organizations opposed to fossil fuel extraction sounded off on their views.
“This is not okay,” said Ruth Breech, Senior Campaigner for Climate and Energy at Rainforest Action Network. “Our public lands are not for sale. Our climate is not for sale. And our health is not for sale.”
Razz Gormley, a volunteer with Frack Free Colorado, was in agreement.
“To allow toxic fracking on 90,000 acres of our public land would be absolutely devastating,” said Gormley. “The impacts that it would have to our air, to our water, and to our soil.”
He worries for the future of his nieces and nephews.
“Fracking is one of the largest drivers of climate change, and their future is not for sale.”
Demonstrators say the solution is renewable energy.
Officials with the Bureau of Land Management, however, said that for now, fossil fuel extraction is a necessity.
“We do energy extraction as safely as possible,” said Steven Hall, the bureau’s Director of Communications. “And certainly some folks don’t agree with that, but we have to think of the entire American public, including those folks who like to heat their homes, and who like to have their electric lights come on when they flip the switch.”
Friday afternoon the Bureau of Land Management released a preliminary environmental assessment for public review that evaluates offering two parcels in Moffat and Routt counties in the May 2016 competitive oil and gas lease sale. The environmental assessment, a list and map of the parcels, and the attached stipulations are available online at http://on.doi.gov/1Q2vj92 and at the Little Snake Field Office located at 455 Emerson Street in Craig.
Written comments must be received by Dec. 14 and may be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Little Snake Field Office, Attn: Lease Sale, 455 Emerson St., Craig, CO 81625.