A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration’s oil and gas leases for more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico over climate concerns, The New York Times reports.
DC Circuit Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled that the Interior Department did not sufficiently take climate change into account when it auctioned the leases last year.
Contreras wrote that the department “acted arbitrarily and capriciously in excluding foreign consumption from their greenhouse gas emissions” as required under the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act.
Disruptions from revoking the leases, he said, “do not outweigh the seriousness of the NEPA error in this case and the need for the agency to get it right.”
The Interior Department must now conduct a new environmental analysis that includes potential greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the development of the leases. The agency then must decide whether to hold a new auction.
Environment groups celebrate:
The decision came in response to a lawsuit from multiple environmental groups that challenged the largest lease sale in US history.
“This is huge,” Brettney Hardy, a senior attorney for Earthjustice, told the Times. “This requires the bureau to go back to the drawing board and actually consider the climate costs before it offers these leases for sale, and that’s really significant. Once these leases are issued, there’s development that’s potentially locked in for decades to come that is going to hurt our global climate.”
The Biden administration paused new oil and gas leases early last year but a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the order in response to a lawsuit from 13 Republican states.
The judge ruled that the administration must hold the lease auction which had already been scheduled, meaning the administration would have been in contempt of court if it refused.
But environmental groups say the administration had other options, including doing a new analysis as called for by Contreras. The lawsuit argued the Interior used an outdated analysis conducted by the Trump administration.