Judge Hands Green Advocates Big Win on Offshore Drilling

Scraps White House plan to sell oil and gas leases in Gulf of Mexico
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 28, 2022 1:00 AM CST
Judge Hands Green Advocates Big Win on Offshore Drilling
A man fishes in Port Aransas, Texas, with oil drilling platforms in the background.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

A federal court has rejected a plan to lease millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for offshore oil drilling, saying the Biden administration did not adequately take into account the lease sale's effect on planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, per the AP. The decision Thursday by US District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington sends the proposed lease sale back to the Interior Department to decide next steps. The judge said it was up to Interior to decide whether to go forward with the sale after a revised review, scrap it, or take other steps.

In his 68-page ruling, Contreras said Interior failed to consider the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the lease sale, violating the National Environmental Policy Act, a bedrock environmental law. "Barreling full-steam ahead with blinders on was simply not a reasonable action for BOEM to have taken here,'' he said, referring to Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Environmental groups hailed the decision and said the ruling gave President Biden a chance to follow through on a campaign promise to stop offshore leasing in federal waters. A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the agency was reviewing the decision.

Energy companies including Shell, BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil offered a combined $192 million for drilling rights on federal oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico in November. The Interior Department auction came after attorneys general from Republican states led by Louisiana successfully challenged a suspension on sales that Biden imposed when he took office. Companies bid on 308 tracts totaling nearly 2,700 square miles. It marked the largest acreage and second-highest bid total since Gulf-wide bidding resumed in 2017.

(Read more oil drilling stories.)

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