Did Federal Agents Spy on Offshore Oil Lease Protesters in New Orleans?

Back in March, hundreds of protesters descended on the Superdome in New Orleans to disrupt a federal auction for new Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases. They waved signs, carried banners and chanted “Shut it down!” and “the Gulf is not for profit!” The action was part of the international Keep It in the Ground campaign seeking to halt the extraction of fossil fuels in order to prevent devastating climate change.

Now an advocacy group wants to know if federal officials worked with local law enforcement and oil and gas industry insiders to spy on environmentalists involved in that and other protests held as part of the campaign.

This week the Center for Biological Diversity filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the federal agencies that oversee oil and gas leasing. The Aug. 11 filings came in response to a recent report by The Intercept that revealed several participants in a May protest of a fossil fuel auction in Lakewood, Colorado, were actually undercover agents sent by law enforcement to monitor the demonstration, and that they were relying on intelligence gathered by Anadarko Petroleum, a major Texas-based oil and gas producer.

The Center’s filings seek information about all offshore and onshore federal fossil fuel auctions conducted by the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) since last August, including the March 23 New Orleans auction and 13 others targeted by protesters. To read the request sent to BLM, click here.

“There’s a large and growing movement of peaceful protesters calling on their government to make a moral choice to save our climate and end new fossil fuel leasing on public lands,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center. “The public has a right to know whether the government has launched a surveillance program targeting climate activists who are courageously speaking up for what’s right.”

The protest in New Orleans drew about 200 people from across the Gulf region, with buses bringing…

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