By Ronesha Johnson, LABB Environmental Justice Fellow
One of the greatest moments I have experienced was taking my first step into the Superdome. I first glanced at the outside of it, I was so amazed at how big it was, and it had many awesome things to observe. The first stop I made was inside the stadium; it was huge and breathtaking. They lit the lights and it was beautiful. It was truly a moment I will never forget.
On Wednesday, June 20, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was having a lease sale. BOEM auctioned off 38 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico. The amounts of money that companies were putting up towards this were ridiculous. Shell bid $27 million on just one lease. I felt that if these companies have large amounts of money like this to bid with, why aren’t they helping out the community. I feel Shell, Exxon and other companies like these should help out the community because they pollute our air and ruin our health. When they are asked to help out with the community, they claim they don’t have the money when obviously they do.
When hearing about this lease sale, Louisiana Bucket Brigade Art-to-Action Coordinator Kristen Evans started a group called Oil Monitoring Group (OMG). This group is a collaborative of citizens and civil society groups. They are modeled on monitoring groups like those dispatched by the United Nations and the Carter Center. OMG was formed to monitor this lease sale and the activities of the oil and gas industry. I decided to join this group because it serves a great cause. It shows that we are watching these companies closely when it comes down to laws and regulations.
We wore khaki vests that were printed with “Oil Monitoring Group” on the back to identify us as trained citizens. Ourgoals were to remind industry representatives at the conference of the laws regarding health, safety, and the environment.
I talked with two people during the event. One man approached me when I was standing with a co-worker of mine. His name was Joe Carol with TGS based in Huston, TX. He was a very nice guy and he seemed very interested in what we were doing. Also there was a woman with BEOM that I spoke with. She wanted to be informed on what our purpose was.
Some of the representatives actually listened to what OMG had to say, but some were just rude. As the auction went on, a traveling Occupy group, known as the Occupy Caravan, came in chanting different things against this auction. This upset everyone that was at the conference, but to me it was hilarious. It was hilarious because it brought shame to these companies. They were surprised because this was unexpected.
Industry, I ask you: How can you actually spend all this money on these leases that were being auctioned off when you can’t meet the standards of the leases that you already have? They should have taken that money and upgraded the leases that they already own.