Court invalidates giant U.S. Gulf lease sale

Written by Nick Blenkey
offshore oil rig

Image: BOEM

In a ruling yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Rudolph Contreras invalidated the Department of Interior’s decision to offer 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing.

The court held that Interior failed to accurately disclose and consider the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the lease sale, violating a requirement environmental law.

The Biden administration had originally tried to cancel the sale, which had been conceived during the Trump administration, but was compelled to hold it only because it had been required to do so under an order from the U.S. District Court in Louisiana.

The sale—Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 257—was eventually held November 17, 2021, and generated $191.6 million in high bids.

Judge Contreras made his ruling in response to a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on August 31 against Secretary of the Interior Debra Haaland and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management following the notice of lease sale 257.

Earthjustice says its lawsuit argued that the 2017 environmental analysis that the Biden administration relied on to hold the sale was fatally flawed and was based on previously debunked environmental analysis.

“By vacating Interior’s decision to hold this illegal lease sale, the court has ensured that no harm will result from it,” says Earthjustice. “Whatever Interior decides to do, it must start with a blank slate and consider the full environmental costs associated with auctioning off our public waters to the fossil fuel industry. We’re confident that a full assessment will lead to the undeniable conclusion that holding a lease sale will cause irreparable harm to Gulf communities and the climate.”


National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) President Erik Milito issued the following statement after the U.S. District Court vacated Lease Sale 257.

“At a time of geopolitical uncertainty and rapidly rising energy prices, U.S. oil and gas production is more important than ever to curb inflation and to fortify our national security. The U.S. offshore region is vital to American energy security and continued leases are essential in keeping energy flowing from this strategic national asset. Uncertainty around the future of the U.S. federal offshore leasing program may only strengthen the geopolitical influence of higher emitting—and adversarial—nations, such as Russia.

“American investment, jobs, and infrastructure development continue to suffer because of the continued expansion of the bounds of the National Environmental Policy Act by the judiciary. It will be incumbent on the Administration to defend responsible U.S. offshore production and to take the necessary steps, including the development of a new U.S. offshore oil and gas leasing program, to ensure continued leasing and energy production from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, for the benefit of all Americans.”


Read Judge Conreras’s ruling:

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