In January 2021 the incoming president froze the issuance of new permits for gas and oil drilling – however a court blocked the move and the tender was launched; Now, a federal court has ruled that the Biden administration did not take environmental considerations into account when offering the lands for lease in favor of the wells.
A U.S. federal court last night issued a major tender for the lease of gas and oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after a coalition of environmental organizations petitioned the Biden administration to prevent it. .
The Gulf of Mexico is responsible for 15% of U.S. oil production and 5% of gas production.
The judge canceled the sale led by the Ministry of Marine Energy Management, with a total area of 323 million dunams. Since the sale began in November, it has generated $ 190 million following the lease of 6.8 million acres. Leading energy companies, including Exxon Mobile and Chevron, were among the bidders.
The administration initially tried to stop oil drilling, and in January 2021, after taking office, Joe Biden signed an order freezing new permits and ordered the Interior Ministry to open a “rigorous review” of existing plans for fossil fuel development.
However, in March a lawsuit was filed by 13 states and the court blocked the administration’s freeze attempt and as mentioned the tender was launched in November. The administration admitted at the time that the move was contrary to its environmental agenda, but claimed its hands were tied.
In a ruling on Thursday, District Judge Rudolf Contreras ruled that the sale was invalid because the Home Office inspection did not take into account all of the environmental consequences as a result of the sale. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said in response that they were analyzing the ruling.
Scott Orman, a spokesman for the U.S. Petroleum Institute, said they are going through the “disappointing ruling” and are considering the options available to them.
“We are pleased that the court has overturned the illegal sale,” said attorney Bartney Hardy of Earthjustice. “We can not continue to make investments in the fossil fuel industry that are hurting communities and increasing global warming.”
According to the ruling, the Biden administration used outdated models to assess the environmental impact of the sale, and relied on Trump administration models that concluded that the effects of greenhouse gases from non-drilling in the Gulf would be worse than the sale, due to increased dependence on foreign gas and oil supplies. Accordingly, the ruling stated that the Ministry of the Interior should re-conduct the environmental analysis and correct the models, and then they will have to decide whether to proceed with the tender.