Environmental concerns block Gulf of Mexico oil, gas leases


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 28, 2022

A federal judge canceled oil and gas leases for various acres in the Gulf of Mexico, saying the Biden administration did not take all the environmental harms into account when awarding them.

In a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled the auctioning of the leases in late 2021 was not environmentally sound. The ruling said the Interior Department must consider the effects of leases like this on the climate prior to awarding them to companies. The Biden administration has been criticized by various environmental advocates for leasing the land to oil and gas companies. Melissa Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Interior Department, told the New York Times that the agency is currently reviewing the court’s decision. It is unclear if the department will appeal the decision.

Early on in his presidency, Joe Biden signed an executive order pausing the issuing of new leases. Republican attorneys general from 13 states sued the order and eventually the order was blocked by a federal judge in Louisiana. Biden previously pledged to stop drilling on public lands. The leases went against that pledge.

Senior Attorney for Earthjustice Brettny Hardy said the decision is huge for environmentalists. Earthjustice was among several environmental groups that brought the lawsuit against the Interior Department.

Democrats push Biden to take stronger action regarding gas, oil policies


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | December 7, 2021

U.S. House Democrats are asking President Joe Biden to take stronger action to restrict oil and gas production in the country.

Members of the House Natural Resources Committee are split with Democrats asking for limiting production and Republicans saying the reduction of U.S. emissions will only heighten global emissions from suppliers overseas. Biden has also been asked by environmental activists to permanently ban gas and oil leasing on federal lands, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-California, chairs the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee. He said the proposals coming from the administration are welcome, but do not assess the entire situation regarding climate change. He said it’s a “missed opportunity” and a “critical issue” that has yet to be addressed.

The conversation in the committee came quickly after a report was released by the U.S. Interior Department asking for fiscal updates the federal gas and oil leasing programs. The recommendation from the November report was to increase fees for explorations on federal land. The report did not suggest limiting or halting leasing programs.

Biden’s policy currently is to increase the fee cost for such leases. According to the Associated Press, Biden recommended hiking up federal royalty rates for drilling. The current rate is 12.5 percent, and the rate has not changed in over a century. It is unclear if Biden will reassess his policy based on remarks from climate activists and fellow Democrats.

Oil, gas leasing to restart in United States


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | August 26, 2021

The temporary halt of onshore and offshore gas and oil development created by the Biden administration could see a restart in coming weeks.

The Interior Department is planning to make significant steps to begin leasing opportunities again, a court filing said on Tuesday. The decision comes after U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty ordered the pause to end in June 2021. The pause started when President Joe Biden began a halt at the very beginning of his time in office. The case Doughty ruled on had a few Republican state attorneys general as plaintiffs. The group, led by Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry, complained to the district court judge that the Biden administration and federal government were not moving fast enough to comply with the order.

In response to the plaintiffs’ concerns, the Interior Department said it would take “the programs’ documented deficiencies” into account, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The department is also expected to announce recommendations for how reform of the programs can meet the Biden administration’s climate change goals.

NPR called the original executive order that halted leasing to slow down the United States’ contribution to climate change “much-anticipated.” The move began as one of many efforts to address the worsening climate issues. During press conferences regarding the executive action, Biden reiterated that he does not plan to ban fracking during his presidency.

Alaska Judge Blocks Oil Project


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Josie Taylor | August 19, 2021

On Wednesday, an Alaskan federal judge blocked construction permits for an oil drilling project that was supposed to produce more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day for the next 30 years. Judge Sharon L. Gleason cited climate dangers in her opinion for why the project should exist.

This massive oil drilling plan was proposed under the Trump administration and legally backed by the Biden administration. Environmental groups, such as Earthjustice sued, saying both the Trump and Biden administration had failed to take into account the effects that drilling would have on wildlife and climate change. Judge Gleason took their side.

The main reason why Judge Gleason sided with the environmental groups was because of the greenhouse gas emissions that would be released with the drilling. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, which then warms Earth

Many places in the United States and the world are experiencing climate crises. Jeremy Lieb, lawyer with Earthjustice, stated that the federal government should recognize we are in a climate emergency. Lieb believes blocking this oil drilling project would be a good start.