A federal appeals court panel ruled in favor of energy industry groups in an order Tuesday evening requiring the Biden administration to conduct a massive offshore oil and gas leasing sale without environmental restrictions.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the decision that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) must move forward with the Section 261 lease sale, a large oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico under the Inflation Reduction Act. The sale was originally scheduled for September, but was postponed after BOEM implemented last-minute environmental restrictions.
“Energy Independence won an important win tonight with the Fifth Circuit’s decision lifting unwarranted restrictions on oil and natural gas vessels and reclaiming acreage for offshore energy development,” American Petroleum Institute Senior Vice President and General Counsel Ryan Myers said in a statement.
“The U.S. Gulf of Mexico plays a critical role in maintaining reliable and affordable U.S. energy production, and today’s decision creates greater certainty for our essential energy workforce and the entire Gulf Coast economy,” he continued.
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Tuesday’s ruling upholds a lower court decision that overturned the federal government’s late amendment to Lease 261. BOEM added environmental restrictions to the sale and closed millions of acres that were previously scheduled to be leased during the August sale, one month after the government’s decision. . It has entered into a stipulated federal residency agreement with environmental advocacy organizations.
The July settlement with environmental groups came after years of litigation and specifically expanded protections for the cedar whale, a species listed as endangered. However, the Court of Appeal ultimately ruled that delaying the Section 261 lease would not protect species that are rarely found near leases offered at sale.
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“At least one whale would need to traverse the area where oil and gas activities are taking place under Lease 261 and be killed by these activities,” the appeals panel’s decision said. “But in four separate environmental reviews over the past seven years, BOEM has concluded that additional protection for rice whales is unnecessary outside their “primary” habitat in the eastern Gulf — an area unrelated to Lease 261 that has long been protected from oil. “And gas rental.”
“At least one Intervenor member will need to go sightseeing in the Rice’s Whale habitat with the goal of seeing a Rice’s Whale after its population dwindles — events whose history remains unknown.”
After BOEM issued a Section 261 lease sale notice in August, API, the nation’s largest fossil fuel industry group, along with the state of Louisiana and U.S. oil company Chevron, filed a lawsuit against BOEM after the agency issued a Section 261 lease sale notice, making… Six million fewer acres are available for oil and gas extraction than previously planned, as part of a settlement with environmental groups.
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Then, on September 21, Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana Grant a preliminary order The plaintiffs have ordered the Biden administration to proceed with Lease No. 261 without restrictions. After the government appealed, the Court of Appeal allowed BOEM to postpone the sale until November 8th.
Late last month, the appeals panel issued a stay of the lower court’s initial order. As a result, BOEM announced on Nov. 2 that it would postpone the sale indefinitely, a move criticized by lawmakers from both parties including Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Under Tuesday’s appeals court ruling, BOEM must make the sale within 37 days.
“The court’s ruling is a necessary and positive response to an unwarranted decision by the Biden administration,” said Eric Milito, president of the National Oceanic Industries Association. “The prospective removal of millions of acres, coupled with the imposition of excessive restrictions, resulted from a voluntary agreement with activist groups that bypassed due process, ignored scientific considerations, and neglected public input.”
He continued: “The escalating geopolitical tensions and instability in various oil-producing regions confirm the decisive role that the United States plays in the Gulf of Mexico.” “To strengthen our national security posture, it is essential that we stand strong and support American oil and gas production.”
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Milito added that Tuesday’s ruling contradicts federal policies such as easing oil sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, measures that, he said, “could contribute to increased global unrest.”
“Taking full advantage of America’s energy production capabilities, especially our offshore resources, is essential to addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing our country,” he said.
BOEM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.