Lawsuits Challenge Trump Administration’s Decision to Sacrifice Gulf of Mexico to Offshore Drilling
The Trump administration held an auction today offering virtually all available, unleased acreage in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas companies for drilling. Earthjustice, on behalf of the Gulf Restoration Network, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity, has two active lawsuits challenging the lease sale and current Gulf drilling operations that threaten wildlife, human safety, and coastal communities.
The following is a statement from Steve Mashuda, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s Ocean’s Program:
“The Trump administration’s sacrifice of the Gulf of Mexico to unfettered fossil fuel development will not stand unchallenged. Oil and gas development along the Gulf Coast comes at a huge cost to the environment and coastal communities from seismic exploration, construction noise, and habitat destruction, to water and air pollution with over 2,100 oil and chemical spills each year. Despite these harms, the administration is moving forward with a “drill everywhere” approach that simultaneously rolls back critical offshore drilling safety protections and incentivizes additional production by lowering royalty rates. Our future lies in clean renewable energy sources. We will do everything in our power to hold the Trump administration accountable to the law and compel the oil and gas industry to clean up its act in the Gulf.”
Background on the two lawsuits:
Endangered species challenge: Earthjustice, on behalf of the Gulf Restoration Network, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity, filed the first suit on June 21, challenging the Trump administration’s failure to complete a legally required consultation about offshore drilling’s harms to threatened and endangered species in the Gulf of Mexico. The National Marine Fisheries Service is required under the Endangered Species Act to complete a consultation with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on its oversight of oil and gas operations that could impact threatened and endangered species. The last time these agencies completed a consultation was in 2007, three years before the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster which led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
The lawsuit challenges the agencies for unreasonably delaying completion of a new consultation and seeks a court order to compel them to complete it within three months.
Lease Sale Challenge: Earthjustice, representing the same plaintiffs, filed the second lawsuit on July 17, challenging the Trump administration for opening up more than 78 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling without fully analyzing the risks to people, wildlife, and the environment. The lease sales targeted in the suit — today’s and BOEM’s March 2018 sale — are the largest ever offered for oil and gas development in U.S. history.
This suit challenges BOEM’s flawed analyses of the lease sales’ environmental effects charging that the bureau relies on incorrect assumptions about the safety regulations and royalty rates that would apply to the leases. BOEM based several of its conclusions on Obama-era policies, including the Clean Power Plan and the Well Control Rule, which the Trump administration is now rolling back or eliminating. Additionally, the lawsuit charges that BOEM significantly underestimates the degree to which each lease sale would affect overall oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico and the effects on global climate change.
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