Anti-fossil-fuel protesters disrupt gulf oil lease sale - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Anti-fossil-fuel protesters disrupt gulf oil lease sale

Hundreds of anti-fossil-fuel protesters nearly commandeered Wednesday's oil lease session in a Superdome meeting room and blocked off a street outside. (Fox 8 Photo) Hundreds of anti-fossil-fuel protesters nearly commandeered Wednesday's oil lease session in a Superdome meeting room and blocked off a street outside. (Fox 8 Photo)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Often the canary in the coalmine for the Gulf’s offshore oil industry, the number of bids for offshore leases is down and the number of protestors is up.

Hundreds of anti-fossil-fuel protesters nearly commandeered Wednesday's oil lease session in a Superdome meeting room and blocked off a street outside.

"If we want to stop climate change, we've got to stop using fossil fuels," said protester Ruth Breech.

The meeting went on for nearly 3 hours with protesters commandeering a normally sedate stage, often drowning out the bid announcer.

But government officials say there are no worries as far as the protesters are concerned.

"No concerns from my perspective,” said Janice Schneider with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “We respect everyone's rights to express themselves.”

The bigger concern is the state of the industry itself. Only 148 bids were submitted for the 128 tracts of ocean bottom floor. That's the lowest in 20 years due to low oil prices leaving little money for drilling.

"I think industry is proceeding cautiously,” Schneider said. “That's what I get from everyone I talk to.”

Despite the disruptions, the bid announcement process was completed with 30 companies participating. However, the attendance wasn’t what it used to be. Not a single bid was placed on a huge Eastern tract in the gulf.

"That's the economic condition we're facing,” said Marc Ehrhardt, Executive Director of the Grow Louisiana Coalition. “But what it doesn't change is the position Louisiana could be in when the price of oil goes up.”

Protesters say it's time to move toward cleaner fuel sources.

"We're inspired by the Atlantic coast,” said Anne Rolfes with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade environmental group. “People spoke out and the people made the decision not to drill in the Atlantic. That's our blueprint."

Protesters say this is just the beginning, but the oil industry says they're not going away anytime soon.

Oil industry supporters argue that the 300 protesters who turned out in the Superdome today, pale in comparison to the thousands of state residents who work in the oil industry.

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