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Federal court revokes oil and gas lease, citing climate change

WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Thursday canceled a more than 80 million-acre oil and gas lease in the Gulf of Mexico, ruling that the Biden administration failed to account for climate change when it auctioned the lease on Tuesday. last year.

The decision of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia was a major victory for environmental groups that criticized the Biden administration for organizing the sale after promising to move the country away from fossil fuels. It was the largest rental sale in US history.

Now, the Home Office must conduct a new environmental analysis that takes into account the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the eventual development and production of rental agreements. The agency will then have to decide whether to hold a new auction.

“This is huge,” said Brettny Hardy, senior attorney for Earthjustice, one of the environmental groups that brought the lawsuit.

“This requires the office to go back to the drawing board and really look at the costs of climate before putting out leases for sale, and that is really important,” Ms. Hardy said, adding, “Once these leases are enacted, there is the potential for locked-in development for decades to come, which will hurt our global climate. “

Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said the agency was reviewing the decision.

As a candidate, Mr. Biden promised to stop issuing new leases for drilling on public lands and federal waters. “And by the way, there’s no need to drill on federal lands anymore. Phase, phase, phase,” Mr. Biden told voters in New Hampshire in February 2020. Shortly after taking office, he signed an executive order to halt the issuance of new leases. .

But a federal judge in Louisiana blocked that order, and also ruled that the government must hold pre-scheduled Bay Area rental sales.

Biden administration officials said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland risks being held in contempt by the courts if the auction is not held. However, environmental groups say the administration has other options, including conducting a new analysis to look at ways in which the burning of oil extracted from the Gulf will contribute to climate change.

The lawsuit alleges that the Interior Department relied on an outdated environmental analysis conducted by the Trump administration to conclude that additional drilling in the Gulf would not increase greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental groups say the analysis does not consider new information about the impact of offshore drilling on rising global temperatures.

“We are reviewing this disappointing decision and reviewing our options,” said Scott Lauermann, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil and gas companies. . Offshore energy development plays an important role in strengthening our nation’s economy and energy security. ”

The companies argued with the court that leaving the lease blank would affect confidential bids already submitted for the zones, making it known to their competitors who was bidding for what and at what price.

Shell, BP, Chevron and Exxon Mobil have offered $192 million for government-provided regional mining rights. Although the sale took place on November 17, the leases have yet to be released.

Judge Rudolph Contreras said in her ruling that the Home Office “acted arbitrarily and erratically in excluding foreign consumption from its greenhouse gas emissions” and that it was required to do so in accordance with the law. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, or NEPA, states that governments must consider ecological damage when deciding whether to permit drilling and construction projects.

“any disruption a rental revocation may cause,” he wrote, does not outweigh the seriousness of the NEPA fault in this case and the need for the agency to properly address it. . “

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/27/climate/federal-court-drilling-gulf.html Federal court revokes oil and gas lease, citing climate change

Fry Electronics Team

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