Environmentalists Sue to Block Oil Leases in Gulf of Mexico

August 31st, 2023 - by Zack Budryk / The Hill

The Centenario drilling platform off the coast of Mexico.

Environmental Groups Sue to Stop
Biden from Selling Oil Leases in Gulf
Zack Budryk / The Hill

(August 28, 2023) — A coalition of environmental groups has sued the Biden administration over its upcoming oil and gas lease sale, which will auction off 67 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that the lease sales, mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act, violate the National Environmental Policy Act, specifically that the Interior Department’s environmental reviews did not properly assess possible health threats to communities along the Gulf Coast.

The lawsuit also alleges the Biden administration’s environmental review process did not properly assess the potential climate damage from the oil development that would occur as a result of the lease sales, which it puts at 1 billion barrels of oil or more in the next five decades. This, in turn, could result in 370 million tons of additional greenhouse gas emissions, according to the lawsuit.

Earthjustice filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of Healthy Gulf, Bayou City Waterkeeper, Friends of the Earth, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club.

“Once again, the Biden administration has fallen short of the federal law by neglecting to consider the impact of this massive oil sale on Gulf communities and the climate,” Earthjustice attorney George Torgun said in a statement. “We’re pleased that Interior excluded habitat for the nearly extinct Gulf of Mexico whale from this lease sale, but it’s equally critical that Interior builds on this step and protects climate and Gulf communities from the harms of leasing.”

The lawsuit came the same day as another complaint from Chevron, the state of Louisiana and the American Petroleum Institute, who argued the Interior Department violated the text of the IRA by shrinking the acreage to protect the endangered Rice’s whale.

The lease sale is set for Sept. 27, after initially being canceled in 2021 as part of an executive order pausing new oil and gas leases on public lands.

The Interior Department declined to comment.

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