NEW ORLEANS, LA – Led by “the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt,” representatives of Environment America, Care2.com, Gulf Restoration Network and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade today delivered more than 64,000 petition signatures to the office of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), calling on the agency to postpone a planned Wednesday auction of offshore oil and gas drilling leases until a critical parks program is reauthorized and fully funded by Congress.
“The promise to our parks is broken,” said Luke Metzger, Gulf of Mexico Coordinator for Environment America. “Royalties from offshore drilling are supposed to fund parks and trails, but for too long Congress has diverted these funds and now may even let the whole program expire. Until the promise to our parks is restored, there should be no new sale of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas companies.”
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has protected more than 40,000 treasured natural areas in every state in the country, from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, to the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, to the Grand Canyon. Funding for the LWCF comes entirely from drilling leases on federal lands, but Congress is poised to let the program expire at the end of September. Congress routinely underfunds the LWCF, diverting oil royalties to other purposes. As a result, only 0.4% of the total parks and preservation need was met in Louisiana in FY2010 by the LWCF.
On Wednesday, Aug. 19, in New Orleans, BOEM is scheduled to auction off leases to oil and gas companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico. Given the uncertainty surrounding the future of the LWCF, the groups said there is a high risk that bonus bids and royalties from this sale will not be invested in conservation, defying a 50-year-old compact of offshore drilling policy.
“Over 64 thousand Care2 members want leadership from the Obama administration on this simple idea: we shouldn’t move forward with new drilling leases unless our shared natural heritage benefits,” said Aaron Viles, Senior Grassroots Organizer for Care2. “We know first hand the high cost of oil drilling – the least our government can do is renew and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”
The groups were led in the delivery of the petitions by the “Conservation President” Teddy Roosevelt (performed by a professional re-enactor) and former park ranger, NFL football player and Zydeco musician “Sunpie” Barnes.