Climate Groups Protest As Biden Admin Proceeds with Massive Oil & Gas Lease Sale

Climate protestors gather outside the Superdome ahead of the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in U.S. history. Photo courtesy of Healthy Gulf, used with permission

Members of Healthy Gulf and other climate organizations gathered in front of the Caesar’s Superdome on Monday to protest the Biden administration’s planned auction of offshore oil and gas leases set to proceed Wednesday. The sale comes just days after President Biden promised attendees of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow that the U.S. would “hopefully lead by the power of our example” to reduce emissions by 50 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.

Lease Sale 257 is the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in U.S. history, making more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico available for drilling, a move that climate organizations around the world are calling hypocritical.

“You promised to address the climate crisis with the urgency it deserves, and in Glasgow, you assured the world that your plans to cut emissions are a fait accompli, not mere rhetoric,” said a coalition of 267 Indigenous and environmental groups in a letter to President Biden. “Selling more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas development just days after the international climate talks makes a mockery of those commitments.”

During his campaign, Biden promised an end to new drilling on federal lands – a promise he attempted to follow up on during his first week in office. On Jan. 27, President Biden signed a sweeping executive order that placed a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on public land and paused any lease sales in progress pending an environmental impact review. However, 13 states – including Louisiana – sued the administration in an attempt to block the order, and a federal judge ruled in June that the sales must be allowed to continue, stating that the administration had overstepped its authority. Although the administration has appealed that ruling, it has agreed to go forward with Wednesday’s sale while the issue is decided in the courts.

“[The Biden administration] is complying with a U.S. District Court’s injunction regarding [the auction] while the government appeals the decision,” said Department of Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management spokesperson John Filostrat. “The Biden Harris Administration is continuing its comprehensive review of the deficiencies associated with its offshore and onshore oil and gas leasing programs.”

But according to the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, the Biden administration has not fully exhausted its legal authority to stop the sale and has several options at its disposal. “The administration has more than sufficient authority to choose not to hold the lease sale,” said the Center for Biological Diversity attorney Kristen Monsell.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the environmental nonprofit Earthjustice are leading the aforementioned coalition of Indigenous and environmental groups in suing the Biden administration to prevent the auction from moving forward. Their goal is to win an injunction before the lease would take effect on Jan 1, 2022.

You can sign Healthy Gulf’s petition protesting the sale here.

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