Complaint Contests Oil and Gas Lease Sale Required Through Injunction In Separate Lawsuit

Environmental organizations filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against government agencies challenging its decision to hold an offshore oil and gas lease sale, Sale 257, in the Gulf of Mexico. The filing noted that this sale occurred despite the Biden administration’s recognition that “bold, immediate actions” are needed to address climate change. 

The federal government likely moved forward with sale 257 as a result of a separate lawsuit filed by a group of states in the Western District of Louisiana. In that matter, the court ruled that the Biden Administration could not place a hold on issuing new oil and gas leases, and issued a preliminary injunction against the federal government defendants. In August, the plaintiffs in that lawsuit sought to enforce the injunction specifically in relation to sale 257, and the federal government responded citing that they have put effort into completing the lease sale. 

The plaintiffs in the instant complaint, Friends of the Earth, Healthy Gulf, Sierra Club, and Center for Biological Diversity, alleged that this breached the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. They filed claims against the U.S. Department of the Interior, its secretary and assistant secretary, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the defendants reportedly released their decision on Tuesday that they planned to hold the lease sale this fall. 

According to the complaint, the lease sale allows the oil and gas industry to use 80 million acres of waters over the next 50 years, producing “up to 1.12 billion barrels and 4.4 trillion cubic feet of fossil fuels” over that time period. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants’ environmental analysis underestimated the environmental impacts of the lease sale, used an outdated analysis, and did not consider new information about endangered species. 

“The combustion of these fossil fuels for energy and transportation is the main human activity that emits carbon dioxide and contributes to a warming climate,” the filing said. “The lease sale will thus contribute substantially to greenhouse gas pollution that, if not curbed, will exacerbate the climate crisis and burdens on communities in the Gulf of Mexico, which are already suffering from climate warming impacts like rising seas and worsening storms.” 

A press release from the Center for Biological Diversity noted that the lease sale was announced directly after Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana. Individuals quoted in the press release argued that more steps should be taken to reduce the impacts of climate change and that this lease sale is “deeply disappointing.” 

The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys with Earthjustice, asked the court to vacate the decision to hold the lease sale and to enjoin any leases issued related to sale 257.