The Inflation Reduction Act provided billions in crucial investments to accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels, but it also included harmful provisions that require the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to conduct three specific offshore oil lease sales before the end of 2023.
Two of those sales are in the Gulf of Mexico — and 25,000 Earthjustice supporters used their voices to oppose them in a public comment period to determine their environmental impact. With 25% of our emissions coming from fossil fuels extracted from public lands and waters, there’s no way to square the Biden administration’s promises to protect the climate and already overburdened communities with its refusal to take on the oil industry.
The Gulf communities and its ecosystem are not alone in being threatened by these offshore lease sales included in the Inflation Reduction Act. The first sale BOEM will conduct is in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. Cook Inlet is a rich ecosystem in south-central Alaska that is of critical importance to species such as salmon and beluga whales, Alaska Native communities that have long lived off the abundance of the area, and the tourism and commercial fishing industries.
Cook Inlet is home to salmon, sea otters, and the endangered beluga whale, among others. Despite the oil industry’s bluster about its sterling safety record, major incidents like the Exxon Valdez and BP Deepwater Horizon oil spills remain a solemn reminder that oil drilling is a gamble that the ecosystem and surrounding communities are denied a chance to opt out of.
The administration is acting as if it doesn’t have a choice in the matter — but that is far from the truth. The Inflation Reduction Act may require lease sales, but the administration still has ample authority to limit the scale of the sale and establish firm environmental protections to limit the damage to the region and the climate.
The Biden administration has not, however, limited the Cook Inlet sale. It is offering a million acres, with the potential for locking in decades of climate-polluting oil production from the region. In its rush to sell Cook Inlet to the highest bidder, the Biden administration is continuing this country’s long history of prioritizing extraction and profit at the expense of healthy ecosystems and the people that rely on them. President Biden is breaking his twin promises to phase out fossil fuels and protect this country’s irreplaceable natural heritage, but there’s still time for his administration to course-correct. Tell the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to reconsider its disastrous Cook Inlet lease sale.