Biden Administration Proposes to Hold Numerous New Federal Offshore Oil and Gas Lease Sales in Next Five-Year Program Despite Climate and Environmental Justice Promises
The Department of the Interior (DOI) today released its draft Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program and accompanying programmatic environmental impact statement that proposes auctioning off the same number of lease sales of public waters to the oil and gas industry that were proposed in 2017, over the next five years. The proposal to hold new lease sales, if adopted, would lock the United States into decades of more carbon pollution and undermines the Biden administration’s stated plan to slash U.S. greenhouse carbon pollution in half by 2030 and to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
President Biden promised to ban new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters. Offering new offshore federal oil and gas leases is directly at odds with his own climate and environmental justice commitments and will compound the climate crisis, harm front-line communities, ecosystems, and workers, and cause billions of dollars in climate damages. As demonstrated in a new report released by Earthjustice, Healthy Gulf, and Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy on June 29, scheduling new offshore lease sales in this five year program will not lower gas prices, increase jobs, or increase oil production for a decade.
“The Biden administration had an opportunity to meet the moment on climate and end new offshore oil leasing in Interior’s five-year program. Instead, its proposal to serve up a bunch of new offshore oil lease sales is a failure of climate leadership and a breach of their climate promises,” said Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation at Earthjustice. “This proposal is business as usual on federal offshore oil leasing.”
There will be a 90-day comment period and a series of public hearings on both the proposed program and the accompanying programmatic environmental impact statement. Interior will have to consider all public comments before finalizing the program, most likely sometime next year.
The draft Five-Year Program comes on the heels of another missed opportunity for the Biden administration to make good on its climate and environmental justice commitments: its decision earlier this week to move forward with a 120,000-acre oil and gas lease sale in Wyoming. Earthjustice filed suit this week over the Biden administration’s decision to hold the sale despite acknowledging that greenhouse gas pollution from development of the leases could result in billions of dollars in social and environmental harm — the equivalent of adding hundreds of thousands of cars to the road each year.
Responding to the harmful Supreme Court ruling in West Virginia v EPA, which restricted the scope of the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, President Biden declared that he “will not relent in using [his] lawful authorities to protect public health and tackle the climate crisis.” A decision to end new offshore oil leasing would have matched President Biden’s words with action.
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