Groups challenge Biden changes to oil lease sale

Published 8:57 am Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Biden administration’s last-minute changes to a lease sale that covers much of the western and central Gulf of Mexico has been challenged by three groups. U.S. District Judge James D. Cain Jr. will hear the case Thursday, Sept. 21, at federal court in Lake Charles.

The state of Louisiana, the American Petroleum Institute and Chevron U.S.A. Inc. filed the complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) after an announcement that the acreage of the final offshore lease sale mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act would be greatly reduced in an “unlawful and arbitrary” manner.

The State’s Attorney General office said Louisiana  could be harmed by the loss of the funds that would otherwise be generated by the sale of the withdrawn acreages and by the depressed bidding that will result from the burdensome new stipulation.

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Offshore oil and gas support and services is a key industry in Louisiana’s economy, including the processing of natural gas which occurs in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes within the Lake Charles Division of this judicial district.

The Biden administration also recently canceled seven controversial oil gas leases in an Alaskan wildlife refuge issued at the end of the Trump administration and has proposed a rule to protect about 13 million acres in another part of the state, known as the National Petroleum Reserve.

The three groups claim the leasing process took years and included extensive consultations between federal, state, and local governments,  environmentalists and other interested companies. During that time, BOEM engaged with stakeholders to prepare for the lease sale. Stipulations were attached to leases, including the environmental protections that BOEM considered appropriate. It covered biological opinions to restrict vessels traveling in the “core” habitat of Rice’s whales. BOEM wants to move the lines and restrict even more of the area.

Plaintiffs called the last-minute changes “unlawful several times over.” They want BOEM to complete the sale on Sept. 27 without the challenged provisions.