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.