A civil rights group says it is organizing protests against actor Robert Redford for what it says is his political role as the Grinch who is hurting low-income families by fighting oil and gas drilling in Utah.

"If Robert Redford succeeds in blocking natural gas production in Utah, it's going to hurt a lot of people on the other end of the pipeline — especially low-income families who are struggling to pay their heating bills," said Niger Innis, national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality.

Redford appeared via satellite on Dec. 17 at a National Press Club briefing to lend his star power to fight a Bush administration auction in Utah of oil and gas leases, some near national parks. Redford said the sale had "morally criminal" intent. The auction occurred anyway on Dec. 19, but environmental groups and supporters have urged President-elect Barack Obama to overturn it when he takes office.

Innis said CORE and the High Impact Leadership Coalition are launching a "Don't Freeze Us Out" campaign that will seek to organize churches, civil rights groups, consumer groups and others "to fight Redford and self-styled environmental groups that are working to constrict supplies of natural gas and other energy resources," a press release said.

"We are not going to stand by as Robert Redford tries to slow the flow of home heating fuel from the Rockies and drive up home heating prices to millions of Americans in his lust for environmental headlines," Innis said. "There are literally people whose lives are at stake this winter because they can barely afford to heat their homes now."

Innis also recently appeared at a press conference in Washington of state legislators from around the country who rallied in support of the Americans for American Energy Act sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah. It is designed to push for greater development of domestic oil, natural gas, coal, oil shale, nuclear, wind, solar and other energy sources in the "all of the above" approach pushed by Republicans.

Innis said at that rally, "Environmental extremists and their allies in the media act like the energy crisis is over because of the drop in gas prices. What they fail to recognize ... is that the radical increase (projected this winter) in home heating costs is going to create an economic tsunami for millions of poor and working-class Americans."

Innis added in his new press release, "The Hollywood crowd likes to pontificate in front of the cameras to show their love for the environment, but what they are actually doing is leading a 'war on the poor' by constricting energy supply and encouraging prices to go higher."

Innis said, "Hollywood may be insensitive to the needs of low-income Americans on affordable energy, but President-elect Obama is not. We are convinced that he will answer the call of our community, and poor families everywhere, who need access to affordable and reliable energy."


E-mail: lee@desnews.com