News Release

Indigenous Environmental Network

In the wake of a major oil spill in Southern California and a new disaster at an oil refinery in Texas City, TX, a coalition of hundreds of Indigenous, climate, and social justice organizations is preparing to arrive in Washington, DC next week for five days of major protests that will urge the Biden Administration to act to curb fossil fuels. Indigenous and climate justice activists previewed those mobilizations in the context of even more fossil fuel disasters that are endangering public health while accelerating the climate crisis.

“We want you [President Biden], with a stroke of your pen, to declare a climate emergency,” said John Beard, Jr., Founder, Chairman and CEO of the Port Arthur Community Action Network. “We’re going to keep escalating the rhetoric, escalating the actions, escalating the call for justice, and Biden is going to have to hear us. Either he's going to be forced to act, or we're going to force others to force him to act. But there can be no compromise here. It's got to be done.”

The Build Back Fossil Free Coalition is planning five days of protests and civil disobedience at the White House next week under the banner of "People vs. Fossil Fuels." [Full details are included below]. They're calling on the Biden Administration to use its executive authority to declare a climate emergency and immediately stop new fossil fuel projects and crack down on existing production.

“When the oil hit the shore on Sunday in my home state of California, one of the first things officials did was to close the beaches, because it is so dangerous to breathe the fumes or come into contact with that oil. And yet, communities are exposed to these very same chemicals every single day, with no warnings and no protection,” said Kassie Siegel, Climate Law Institute Director, Senior Counsel, Center for Biological Diversity. “The White House says President Biden's doing everything possible to address the climate emergency and environmental racism. But that's not true. He has broad authority to stop approving fossil fuel projects, like the ones we're talking about today. And he's not using it yet."

While the Biden Administration has made bold promises on climate and is asking Congress to act on the issue, it has so far failed to use its many executive and regulatory authorities to crack down on fossil fuel production. With Congress yet to act and the Biden Administration still not fulfilling many of its commitments to tackle the climate crisis, the United States may arrive at next month’s crucial COP26 UN Climate Change Conference with little climate progress to share.

Build Back Fossil Free has laid out a clear Executive Action Plan that outlines dozens of steps the administration could take from using NEPA and the Clean Water Act to reject federal permit applications for all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, to fulfilling President Biden's promise to end drilling on public lands, to using emergency powers to reinstate the crude export ban. Next week’s actions will be led in part by people from the communities where these new fossil fuel infrastructure projects are planned.

“When you go to the North Slope, there are cancer clusters. There are asthma cases rising, respiratory illnesses. In the village of Nuiqsut 70% of the community members need to have medication to aid with their breathing. We have children with leukemia. The human impact is right now, we have no time to wait, we cannot invest [in fossil fuels] any longer,” said Siqniq Maupin, Executive Director, Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic. “We're investing in a dying industry because we have such deep political ties to oil and gas. Biden can be that game changer. He could go down in history as a president who did not give in and sell us out. But whether or not he does, I think this is showing that the people cannot suffer any longer in silence, and we won't.”

On Wednesday, over 380 organizations sent a legal petition to the Biden Administration urging it to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to stop issuing permits for fossil fuel projects under the legal argument that these projects are "contrary to the public interest." As the groups are quick to point out, President Biden made this exact public interest argument when rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline -- now, they are urging him to apply the same logic to other fossil fuel projects.

“We're not looking for compromises. Indigenous people are on the frontline of climate chaos, and we are not accepting compromises anymore. We are going to keep pushing Biden until he stops Line 3 and also shuts down DAPL. We are in a climate crisis. Our forests are on fire. Our cities are underwater. Our people are dying of cancer,” said Jennifer Falcon, Indigenous Environmental Network Communications Coordinator. “We're going to keep fighting and make him as uncomfortable as possible, which is why we are taking this fight to his front door, just as these pipelines have been pushed across our communities without consent. And we will continue to keep pushing him until we win.”

Climate activists will be bringing this anti-fossil fuel message directly to the President's doorstep with the People vs. Fossil Fuels protest. Thousands of people have already registered for the event, with hundreds indicating they're willing to risk arrest to make sure their message is heard loud and clear. As the risks of our ongoing dependence on fossil fuels continue to make themselves devastatingly clear, they are urging the Biden Administration to listen before it is too late. 

People vs. Fossil Fuels: White House Mobilization, October 11-15

Who: The mobilization is being organized by Build Back Fossil Free, a coalition of hundreds of Indigenous, Black, environmental, climate justice, youth, and social justice organizations.

Participants in the action will include leading members of the fossil fuel resistance, representing different fights that are taking place across the country, from the struggle against the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota to the campaign against oil and gas export facilities in the Gulf Coast.

What: The mobilization will involve five days of protests and civil disobedience at the White House, with the potential for additional actions throughout the Washington, D.C. area. 

Each day has the following theme:

  • Monday, October 11: Indigenous Peoples Day.
  • Tuesday, October 12: Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis.
  • Wednesday, October 13: Climate chaos is happening now.
  • Thursday, October 14: We need real solutions, not false promises.
  • Friday, October 15: We did not vote for fossil fuels. Youth-led action.

On Friday, October 15th, the protest will involve a march to Congress, where participants will risk arrest on the steps of the Capitol.

Where: In Freedom Plaza and at the White House and Congress.

Organizers are establishing an outdoor action center at Freedom Plaza, which will be open 8am to 6pm every day, including for press. The area will be filled with signs, banners, props, and other art that will be used in conjunction with the actions.

Mobilization spokespeople will be available for interviews throughout the day at Freedom Plaza. There will be an outdoor tent (with electrical outlets) that can be used for interviews. 

The action each day is planned to take place in Lafayette Square Park, in front of the White House. This will be an unpermitted protest and participants will be risking arrest by refusing to leave the area on Pennsylvania Avenue directly in front of the White House.

When: The mobilization will take place throughout the week of October 11-15.

Many of the lead organizers will arrive in Washington, D.C. the weekend before (Oct 9-10) and be available for interviews in the lead-up to the protest.

Each day, the protest will begin with a gathering at Freedom Plaza at 8:00am. Participants will then march to the White House around 8:30am. The action will continue over the following hours, depending on the actions of the police. 

Why: Build Back Fossil Free is calling on President Biden to declare a climate emergency and stop all new fossil fuel projects.

By refusing to stop major fossil fuel projects, President Biden has broken his promises to protect Indigneous rights, prioritize environmental justice, and fully address the climate crisis.

Despite the President’s rhetoric, his administration has failed to stop major projects like the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, defended oil drilling in the Arctic, promoted fossil fuel exports, and allowed drilling, mining and fracking to continue on Native and public lands.

Meanwhile, the impacts of the climate and pollution crisis have only grown worse. Hurricanes have devastated communities from New Orleans to New York City. Wildfires have burned millions of acres across the West. Historic droughts and heatwaves have gripped most of the country. And every day, millions of Americans, especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous People, breathe air and drink water poisoned by fossil fuel pollution. 

As the Build Back Fossil Free coalition has shown, the President has the executive authority he needs to declare a climate emergency, stop all new fossil fuel projects, and fight for climate justice. The People vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization is calling on the President to:

  • Stop approving fossil fuel projects and speed the end of the fossil fuel era.

  • Declare a climate emergency and launch a just and renewable energy revolution.

A more detailed list of demands can be found at: https://peoplevsfossilfuels.org/demands/

Groups involved in Build Back Fossil Free and the mobilization include 350.org, Indigenous Environmental Network, Arm in Arm, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Climate Justice Alliance, Food and Water Watch, Fridays for Future USA, Friends of the Earth USA, Future Coalition, Global Exchange, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, GreenFaith, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, Honor the Earth NDN Collective, Oil Change International, Our Revolution, Power Shift Network, Presente, Pueblo Action Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, Seventh Generation, Sunrise Movement, Unitarian Universalist Mass Action, WildEarth Guardians, Zero Hour, and more.

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About Indigenous Environmental Network

Established in 1990, the Indigenous Environmental Network is an international environmental justice nonprofit that works with tribal grassroots organizations to build the capacity of Indigenous communities. Indigenous Environmental Network’s activities include empowering Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, the health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities.

Learn more here: ienearth.org

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