On Thursday, a United States judge revoked a major oil and gas leases sale for the wide swath of the Gulf of Mexico, saying the administration failed to properly account for its climate change effect. The decision has cast doubt over the future of the United States federal offshore drilling, which has been a top source of public revenue for several years but also drawn the rage of activists worried about its effects on the environment and benefaction to climate change.
In the verdict, District Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled to vacate the lease, which presented nearly 37.4M offshore hectares (80M acres) in the Gulf of Mexico in an auction in November 2021. The action drew criticism after the U.S. government vowed to move away from fossil fuels in combat against global warming.
BREAKING: A federal judge just invalidated the oil and gas leases that the Biden administration auctioned off in the largest offshore lease sale in U.S. history in the Gulf of Mexico last year. Story TK w/ @annamphillips
— Maxine Joselow (@maxinejoselow) January 28, 2022
The sale generated the highest since 2019 – over 190 million dollars – on 0.7M hectares (1.7M acres) sold. Moreover, it drew bids from the big oil companies, including Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil. The move came after the San Francisco, California-based Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental organization, challenged the sale as a representative of four other environmental organizations, arguing American leader’s interior department was depending upon an old environmental study that didn’t precisely consider carbon emissions that would result from blocks’ development.
In addition, Judge Contreras agreed, faulting the Biden administration for not including foreign consumption from its carbon emissions analysis and for ignoring the up-to-date science on the role of oil-and-gas development in climate change.
Melissa Schwartz, the Interior spokesperson, said that they’d documented severe deficiencies in the federal oil-and-gas program, adding: particularly in the face of the climate catastrophe, they need to take the time to make substantial and long-overdue programmatic reforms.
The United States Congress has mandated that America hold frequent auctions of public lands for oil and gas development. In a statement, Earthjustice’s senior attorney Brettny Hardy said that they’re pleased that the court annulled Interior’s unlawful lease sale. However, they simply can’t go on with making investments in the fossil fuel industry to the risk of their communities and increasingly heating the planet.
Additionally, it was uncertain how the ruling would influence the plans of the administration to present over 0.3 million acres of onshore leases to drillers by this quarter’s end. But the offshore drilling industry criticized the move.
The pronouncement isn’t just once a court has quoted faulty environmental assessments in blocking oil-and-gas development on U.S. federal lands. In August 2021, a U.S. judge reversed the administration’s approval of a six billion dollars ConocoPhillips Alaska development, a discovery that was mentioned in the 168-page ruling of Rudolph Contreras.