Bold Louisiana state director Cherri Foytlin arrested during sit-in at Dept. of Interior to demand halt to new fossil fuel lease sales. (Photo: Rainforest Action Network)
Bold Louisiana state director Cherri Foytlin arrested during sit-in at Dept. of Interior to demand halt to new fossil fuel lease sales. (Photo: Rainforest Action Network)

13 Arrested for Dept. of Interior Sit-in Return to DC for Court Hearing Thursday

Bold Louisiana’s Cherri Foytlin, Leaders of Rainforest Action Network, Friends of the Earth & Indigenous Groups Among Those Arrested

Washington — Thirteen frontline and indigenous climate leaders will be in Washington this week, facing their first court hearing after being arrested on September 15.

(View full coverage of the Sept. 15 direct action sit-in at the Dept. of Interior in D.C.)

The 13 were part of a group of 40 leaders from across the country who occupied the headquarters of the Department of Interior, representing the diversity of voices of the Keep It in the Ground Movement, which has been escalating its tactics in the face of continued leasing of public lands by the federal government to the fossil fuel industry.

Among the arrested were people from frontline communities in New Mexico, Montana, Alaska, Wyoming, and Louisiana as well the leadership of national green groups, including Bold Louisiana director Cherri Foytlin, and leaders of Rainforest Action Network and Friends of the Earth.

The first court hearing for the leaders will be October 6, and all of the arrested will be in Washington. They are making themselves available for interviews and commentary on October 5 and 6.

The Keep It in the Ground movement hopes to center the leaders of the frontline community leaders, whose voices are the most critical in delivering the movement’s messages to decision makers in Washington, in particular that the people of affected communities won’t be silenced, will continue to make themselves visible through protest at home and in Washington, and will continue to hold the federal government accountable for the injustices perpetrated by the fossil fuel industry. Because they represent a range of geographic and cultural perspectives, these leaders articulate the breadth of impacts of fossil fuel extraction and climate change in the United States.

The activists echo the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, ally indigenous supporters, and others, as they wage a historic resistance against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. In solidarity with the Standing Rock resistance, last month’s action aimed to stop further fossil fuel extraction and climate destruction.

On behalf of the American people, the U.S. federal government manages nearly 650 million acres of public land and more than 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf — and the fossil fuels beneath them. This includes federal public land, which makes up about a third of the U.S. land area, and precious waters like Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Seaboard. These places and the fossil fuels beneath them are held in trust for the public by the federal government. Federal fossil fuel leasing is administered by the Department of the Interior.

Over the past decade, the combustion of federal fossil fuels has resulted in nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. A 2015 report by EcoShift Consulting, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, found that remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. As of earlier this year, 67 million acres of federal fossil fuel were already leased to industry, an area more than 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

Last year Sens. Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (I-Vt.) and others introduced the Keep It In the Ground Act (S. 2238) legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later President Obama canceled the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying, “Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

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