Earthjustice Reacts to Biden Administration’s Plans for Massive Offshore Lease Sale in Gulf of Mexico

Lease Sale 259 will bring unnecessary harm to environmental justice communities, climate, and at-risk species


Jackson Chiappinelli,, (585) 402-2005

Today, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released a record of decision outlining its plans to auction off more than 73 million acres of public waters in the Gulf of Mexico to the oil and gas industry, in what would be one of the largest offshore lease sales in U.S. history. Lease Sale 259 would offer up almost all available unleased areas in the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, which could result in the production of over 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas over the next 50 years.

The lease sale was included in a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which passed in August 2022, requiring that BOEM hold Lease Sale 259 by March 31, 2023. While the IRA directs BOEM to hold this lease sale, it doesn’t require such a vast area to be auctioned to industry, nor does it exempt the sale from any existing laws for the protection of people and the environment, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

In addition to the egregious and unnecessary scope of Lease Sale 259, the Biden administration is relying on a final environmental impact statement (EIS) that fails to adequately analyze the lease sale’s significant environmental impacts, including the effects on critically endangered species like the Rice’s whale, oil spill harms and risks, environmental justice impacts, greenhouse gas emissions, and more. In fact, the EIS inaccurately claims that the billion barrels of oil that would be produced by the sale would have negligible greenhouse gas emissions.

“Instead of approaching a dangerous decision for front-line Gulf communities, vital ecosystems, and endangered species with extreme caution and thorough evaluation, the Biden administration is proceeding with another massive lease sale,” said Earthjustice attorney George Torgun. “The agency unlawfully approved a sale that would generate decades of climate pollution and oil spill risks at the same time we need to urgently move in the opposite direction. Earthjustice is committed to defending Gulf communities who have borne the brunt of the polluting oil and gas industry for years, and we remain dedicated to protecting critical species and habitat.”

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