The federal government launched its first-ever live-streamed auction of offshore drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico earlier today (August 24)—amid ongoing protests against it. Approximately a dozen were in attendance at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans as officials read bids. These sales had been public in the past, but after protestors interrupted a separate auction in Marchthe government took them online.

The online sale resulted in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management selling 23.8 million acres, which totaled $18 million. Exxon Mobil was listed as the highest bidder. BHP Billiton Petroleum and BP placed the highest number of bids. 

As protestors have argued, leasing more land to oil companies can lead to an increase in spills, ones that may be as catastrophic as the 2010 BP crisis. 

Yesterday (August 23), protestors were outside of the regional Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Offices in Jefferson Parish calling for an end to the auction and all new leases, especially along the Gulf of Mexico, which is still recovering six years after the BP oil spill. They delivered a petition stating the same demands. According to Anne Rolfes, founding director of one of the groups* behind the petition, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 184,000 signatures were gathered in five days. 

During yesterday’s actions, Jefferson Parish police arrested four protestors. Three were released without bail, but one, Blake Kopcho, was kept for seven hours because he “wasn’t local” and had to pay a $280 bail, according to another protestor. 

Blake Kopcho, who had to pay a $280 bail, being arrested after protesting for no new leases in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Laura Cox Tree Media Group) Blake Kopcho, who had to pay a $280 bail, being arrested after protesting for no new leases in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Laura Cox Tree Media Group)

Colorlines spoke with two protestors by telephone to discuss their reasons for why action is needed.

Renate Heurich
61 | New Orleans | Organizer with 350 Louisiana

A now-retired teacher who’s lived in New Orleans for 26 years but hails from Fulda, Germany, Heurich says she is not afraid to “rattle those in power.” She recognizes the need to save future generations from climate catastrophe: 

“Climate change is a tremendous danger we are facing, and what we are passing onto our children is just absolutely unconscionable. I am extremely worried about what we are doing to this planet and what the results are going to be to our children and grandchildren. I think they’re going to have to deal with issues we can’t imagine. Selling the gulf means selling our children’s future.”

John Clark
71 | New Orleans | Founder of La Terre Institute for Community and Ecology

Clark grew up in New Orleans, and his family have resided in the area for 12 generations. However, the people he keeps in mind are those who have been here long before them: the Native communities on the coast. He fights in their honor and for his home’s rich culture:

“I always believed in direct action, but I think direct action way beyond what we just did is necessary. We need to do everything we can: legal action, change in culture, work in the media, every kind of organization. We need direct action, and it’s an emergency. What we did was just a tiny little gesture that could suggest what we need to do.”

John Clark is arrested after standing his ground outside the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management offices in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. John Clark is arrested outside the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management offices in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. (Photo courtesy of Laura Cox Tree Media Group)

*Post has been updated to reflect that the Louisiana Bucket Brigade is one of the groups behind the petition, not “the” group behind it.