Originally published on Narcosphere by Brenda Norrell on 15/09/15.
WASHINGTON — Louise Benally of Big Mountain joined Native American delegations and coalitions here today to tell President Obama to stop leasing lands and oceans for fossils fuel extraction. Benally’s message was, “Keep it in the Ground.”
“Coal companies like Peabody Energy have been mining federal and tribal coal in and near native communities like mine for decades. The tribal governments allow energy companies to impound peoples’ livestock, which is the only source of income and food for communities impacted by forced removal—a legacy policy initiated by Senator John McCain for Peabody to gain access to coal mining locations.
“Peabody mine sites don’t have bonds and liners in the waste ponds. Contaminated waters are released in the headwaters after every rain, polluting the little water they leave behind. The Gold King mining disaster is just the most recent example of the kind of devastation that has been happening to the Dine for generations. Before coal, we were devastated by uranium. Now, our families are the targets of a fracking boom on federal lands in places like Chaco Canyon. Dirty energy companies ruin our lands, while the profit goes elsewhere,” Benally said.
“Environmental concerns are not being addressed properly by agencies that should be accountable. Groundwater tables have dropped by big drops, the greenhouse gases being released into the air are not monitored correctly, and health impacts are not monitored at all. This devastation of our communities is a kind of terrorism made possible by Senators like John McCain, all while President Obama turns a blind eye. These industries are not accountable to the land, the natural world, or the people living here. Their destruction has to stop now.”
Louise Benally, Big Mountain Diné Nation, Indigenous Cultural Concepts, Media Island International, is among those who has spent her life resisting forced relocation due to Peabody Coal and the misinformation campaign that fuels Navajo Generating Station, electricity for southern Arizona.
Cherri Foytlin, Bridge the Gulf said, “I would ask that you put yourself in our place. Over five years have passed since BP’s broken promises spewed as easily from their tongues as the oil did from their broken pipe. To this day our peoples and ecosystems suffer from BP’s brutal, callous, and lasting assault. Five years, and our dolphins still die, our turtles still die, our oysters still die, our marshes still die, our people still die.
“BP is a corporate serial killer. BP is a terrorist organization. Yet they not only remain free to continue their patterns of destruction, they are subsidized by our government to do it. How many more graves will there be, before justice is truly served in the Gulf Coast? That is the only question we have now.”
Princess Daazhraii Johnson of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL) delivered a powerful message from Alaska.
“We are in climate crisis in Alaska, and advancing energy extraction within our ancestral territories would seriously exacerbate climate change and threaten our ability to survive in the Arctic. Climate Change is upsetting the delicate balance in many ecosystems. There is an urgency to take action now.
“The President was in Alaska, and saw for himself the consequences of climate change. Indigenous peoples of the North implore him to take effective action now to address the issue while we still can. If the U.S. is serious about Climate Change, rescind the Shell permits to drill in the Chukchi Sea, and permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We must keep the remaining fossil fuels in the ground and continue towards a just transition to alternative energies. We do not have the luxury of time. We can implement clean energy systems in the U.S. now.”
A coalition of more than 400 organizations and leaders will deliver a letter to the White House on Tuesday calling on President Obama to stop new federal fossil fuel leasing on public lands and oceans in the United States, the coalitions said in a statement.
The letter argues that, by keeping publicly owned fossil fuels that haven’t already been leased to industry in the ground, President Obama can keep nearly half of the potential emissions from all remaining U.S. fossil fuels, up to 450 billion tons, from the global pool of potential carbon pollution.
More than 67 million acres of public land and ocean are already leased to the fossil fuel industry. That represents an area 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park and contains up to 43 billion tons of potential carbon pollution. Deeming unleased oil, gas and coal “unburnable” would accomplish more in the global fight against climate catastrophe than any other single climate action taken by the Obama administration.