LC judge grants preliminary injunction against Biden administration 

Lake Charles U.S. District Judge James D. Cain was true to his word about making a quick decision in Thursday’s case challenging the Biden administration’s decision to limit oil and gas development off the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. The hearing ended Thursday afternoon, and by 6:30 p.m., Cain had ordered preliminary relief. Lease Sale 261 would commence with the original acreage and without the ship traffic stipulation.

The federal judge ordered the Interior Department to put the approximately 6 million acres back in the lease sale and take the stipulation out, making the total acres available in the Sept. 27 lease sale, 73 million as originally planned.

At the end of August, the administration reduced the acreage. The Bureau of Ocean Management also added a stipulation. Industry vessels serving new development sites would have to reduce speeds, stop night travel and limit routes. The restrictions would only be applied to oil and natural gas companies, only a small portion of the overall ship traffic. Restrictions would not apply to oil and gas companies who won earlier bids for this area.

The last-minute change by the Biden Administration was a result of a closed-door settlement agreement with the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Turtle Island Restoration Network. The agreement is based on the idea that ship traffic in the central and western Gulf of Mexico could disturb the habitat of the Rice’s whale.

Chevron, Shell Offshore, the American Petroleum Institute and the State of Louisiana sued to reverse the cut in acreage and block the inclusion of the whale-protecting measures in the lease sale provisions. They claimed the administration’s actions violated provisions of a 2022 measure, labeled the Inflation Reduction Act, that provided broad incentives for clean energy, along with creating new drilling opportunities in the Gulf. They also said the changes after the initial lease sale was proposed in March violate federal law because they were adopted arbitrarily, without sufficient explanation of why they are needed.

The Biden administration plans to appeal.

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