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Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Huge Offshore Drilling Sale in Gulf of Mexico

Administration opens 78 million acres to oil leasing after courts block Arctic, Atlantic drilling
Oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lucasz Z / Shutterstock
August 7, 2019
Washington, D.C. —

Environmental groups sued the Trump administration today to challenge its fourth oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. The sale offers 78 million acres to offshore drilling without fully analyzing the risks to people, wildlife, or the environment

Earthjustice filed a supplemental complaint on behalf of Healthy Gulf, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity following the Department of the Interior’s announcement that it will again hold a massive lease sale this fall. Today’s filing builds on an earlier challenge to the Trump administration’s March lease sale.

After a judge struck down President Trump’s order to undo a permanent ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and important areas of the Atlantic, the administration continues to overload the Gulf of Mexico with oil and gas development.

“A court ruled that President Trump exceeded his authority and violated the law trying to open up the Arctic and Atlantic. Meanwhile, the administration is doubling down on the harm and impacts on the Gulf of Mexico, endangering Gulf communities, the environment, and workers,” said Brettny Hardy, Earthjustice attorney.

“Trump can’t keep intensifying dirty and dangerous offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Kristen Monsell, ocean legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Ignoring the damage the oil industry does to the Gulf environment is reckless and illegal. Marine life, coastal communities and our climate are all paying a terrible price as this region is treated like a sacrifice zone.”

“Gulf Coast communities should not be forced to bear the burden of the Trump administration’s dangerous, pro-polluter agenda,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Devorah Ancel. “We will continue to fight back against this administration’s reckless attempts to sell off our public waters to the fossil fuel industry.”

The Trump administration is offering essentially all available unleased acreage in the Gulf that is not subject to a congressional moratorium — everything but the continental shelf off the Florida coast.

The agency is offering essentially all available, unleased acreage in the Gulf that is not subject to a congressional moratorium — everything but the continental shelf off the Florida coast.
Data Source: BOEM

The Trump administration has also been putting the Gulf coasts at greater risk for an oil spill or other disaster by not protecting taxpayers from these events while simultaneously removing drilling safety regulations meant to prevent catastrophic blowouts like the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Today’s lawsuit challenges Interior’s flawed analyses of the sales’ environmental effects, which rely on incorrect assumptions about the safety regulations and royalty rates that would apply to the leases. Interior based several of its conclusions on Obama-era policies, including the Well Control Rule and the Clean Power Plan, which the Trump administration is now rolling back or eliminating.

Court timeline:

Earthjustice on behalf of the same plaintiff group challenged the Trump administration in 2018 for similarly large lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico. The judge is expected to rule on the case by November 2019.

The challenges to the 2019 lease sales are on hold until the 2018 case is decided.

Reporter resources:

Contacts

Liz Trotter, Earthjustice, (305) 332-5395

Kristen Monsell, Center for Biological Diversity, (914) 806-3467

Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, (914) 261-4626

We're the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.