Federal judge throws out oil lease sale in Gulf of Mexico
WASHINGTON (AP) — 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, violating a bedrock environmental law.
The decision Thursday by U.S. 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.
Environmental groups hailed the decision and said the ruling gave President Joe Biden a chance to follow through on a campaign promise to stop offshore leasing in federal waters. The decision was released on the one-year anniversary of a federal leasing moratorium Biden ordered as part of his efforts to combat climate change.
“We are pleased that the court invalidated Interior’s illegal lease sale,” said Brettny Hardy, a senior attorney for Earthjustice, one of the environmental groups that challenged the sale.
“This administration must meet this critical moment and honor the campaign promises President Biden made by stopping offshore leasing once and for all,'' Hardy added. "We simply cannot continue to make investments in the fossil fuel industry to the peril of our communities and increasingly warming planet.''
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...