Written by: Kimberly White
Environmental groups have joined together to challenge a controversial decision to lease out millions of acres of public waters for oil leasing.
The Biden administration announced plans to open up millions of acres for oil and gas exploration in response to an order by a federal judge in Louisiana.
While the Biden administration had paused oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters, a Louisiana judge granted a preliminary injunction to 13 states, stating the government was obligated to offer acreage to the oil and gas industry and that the leasing pause would be economically damaging for the states.
Environmental law organization Earthjustice has criticized the ruling as “legally wrong,” noting that, while the order must be followed, the government is not legally required to return to business-as-usual. The federal government could choose to offer new oil and gas leases in a way that is limited and deliberate.
The administration has appealed the judge’s ruling but will proceed with new oil and gas leasing while the appeal is pending.
Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the administration will offer 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to the oil and gas industry, the largest offshore oil lease sale in the nation’s history.
Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland and the Bureau of Ocean Energy on behalf of Healthy Gulf, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and the Center for Biological Diversity.
“This lease sale is deeply disappointing. The Biden administration has folded to the oil industry based on its campaign of disinformation and political pressure, ignoring the worsening climate emergency we face,” stated Brettny Hardy, Earthjustice attorney. “Our planet cannot handle more stress from oil and gas production and yet the Biden administration is plowing ahead with a lease sale that will have impacts for decades into the future.”
Earthjustice argues that the environmental analysis of Lease Sale 257 is out of date and “relies on improper modeling to conclude that not having the lease sale will result in more greenhouse gases.”
“Despite campaign promises to be climate and environmental justice champions, the Biden administration has opted to resume oil and gas lease sales,” said Hallie Templeton, Deputy Legal Director at Friends of the Earth. “To add insult to injury, federal officials have violated federal law by relying on outdated and flawed environmental analysis while continuing to treat the Gulf of Mexico as a sacrificial zone to Big Oil.”
The proposed sale would result in the production of up to 1.12 billion barrels and 4.4 trillion cubic fossil fuels over the next 50 years.
The decision comes after the IPCC released its “code red for humanity” report. The report noted that humankind has caused unprecedented warming and irreversibly altered the planet, providing a sobering reminder of the severity of the climate crisis and the urgent need for ambitious action.
Global temperatures have already risen 1.2°C and continue to rise. The IPCC report shows that human activities are the primary driver of this rise and are responsible for roughly 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900.
Historically, the United States has emitted more carbon dioxide than any other country. The nation is responsible for more than a quarter of all carbon dioxide emitted since the 1750s.
As the world’s second-largest emitter, it is imperative that the U.S. federal government shift away from business-as-usual and take ambitious, concrete action to combat the climate crisis instead of kicking the can down the road.
“We need to end offshore oil drilling, not burden future generations with this dirty and dangerous folly,” said Kristen Monsell, Oceans Legal Director at the Center for Biological Diversity.