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The Biden administration has lost another green energy agenda battle after a federal judge blocked the president’s effort to restrict oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Late Thursday evening, U.S. District Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction after the administration’s last-minute attempt to halt an upcoming offshore oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf, Fox News Digital reported.
Cain granted the request “from plaintiffs — the State of Louisiana, industry association American Petroleum Institute (API) and oil companies Chevron and Shell — to block the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) restrictions on Lease Sale 261. The lease sale spanning millions of acres across the Gulf of Mexico is slated for next week,” the outlet added.
Cain determined that the federal government must conduct the lease sale by September 30 under its initial terms. Following a settlement reached in July with environmental organizations, BOEM excluded approximately six million acres from the sale and enforced several limitations on oil and gas vessels linked to the auctioned leases. The agency said the measures were implemented to safeguard the Rice’s whale species inhabiting certain areas of the Gulf of Mexico.
“The court observes that plaintiffs have demonstrated substantial potential costs resulting from the challenged provisions,” Cain wrote in his ruling. “While the government defendants largely focus on the acreage withdrawal and dynamics of the sale itself, many of plaintiffs’ alleged hardships arise from the vessel restrictions.”
“Industry plaintiffs have shown a likelihood that these will burden their operations on current and planned leases,” the ruling added. “The resulting costs would not be undone by the court’s entry of a permanent injunction and order of another sale.”
Cain also said he viewed the Biden administration’s actions as an attempt to “provide scientific justification to a political reassessment of offshore drilling.” He also said the administration’s behavior looked “more like a weaponization of the Endangered Species Act than the collaborative, reasoned approach prescribed by the applicable laws and regulations.”
API Senior Vice President and General Counsel Ryan Meyers said after the ruling it was a positive step toward ensuring American energy security.
“We are pleased that the court has hit the brakes on the Biden Administration’s ill-conceived effort to restrict American development of reliable, lower-carbon energy in the Gulf of Mexico,” Meyers said in a statement.
“Today’s decision will allow Lease Sale 261 to move forward as directed by Congress in the Inflation Reduction Act, removing the unjustified restrictions on vessel traffic imposed by the Department of the Interior and restoring the more than 6 million acres to the sale,” he added. “This decision is an important step toward greater certainty for American energy workers, a more robust Gulf Coast economy and a stronger future for U.S. energy security.”
Fox News noted further:
In late August, API and its fellow plaintiffs filed the lawsuit against the Biden administration calling for the court to require the Biden administration to “fulfill its obligations to the American people.” According to industry, sales like Lease Sale 261, which is the final federal offshore lease sale scheduled, are vital to ensure long-term oil and gas production.
Overall, BOEM said — following its eco settlement in July — it would offer 12,395 blocks across approximately 67 million acres in multiple regions of the Gulf of Mexico, less than the 13,620 blocks across 73.4 million acres it originally planned to offer. The acreage stripped from the sale included potentially oil-rich tracts located in the middle of the lease area.
“The injunction is a necessary and welcome response from the court to an unnecessary decision by the Biden administration,” added Erik Milito, the president of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), according to Fox News.
“The removal of millions of highly prospective acres and the imposition of excessive restrictions stemmed from a voluntary agreement with activist groups that circumvented the law, ignored science, and bypassed public input,” he continued.