WASHINGTON— The Biden administration has cancelled a March 17 oil and gas lease sale that would have auctioned off over 78 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management also recently cancelled the public meetings and comment period for an upcoming fossil fuel lease sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.
Both offshore oil auctions were scheduled for this year as part of the 2017-2022 federal offshore leasing program. President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Jan. 27 directing federal agencies to suspend oil and gas leasing of federal lands and waters pending a review of the program.
“Cancelling this huge offshore Gulf oil auction helps protect our climate and life on Earth. President Biden understands the urgent need to keep this oil in the ground,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a great step toward phasing out all offshore drilling and bringing environmental justice to the Gulf Coast and Alaska. We need to help restore coastal communities and marine life.”
BOEM announced today it is rescinding the record of decision for the March 17 lease sale, which effectively cancels the sale.
The Trump administration held eight offshore lease sales during its term, including six in the Gulf of Mexico of more than 75 million acres each — the largest oil lease sales in U.S. history. Of the nearly 517 million acres offered to the oil industry during those sales, the industry leased only about 4.6 million acres, mostly in the Gulf.
Trump’s administration held these lease sales without carefully analyzing their climate impacts or impacts on species like critically endangered Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whales or Cook Inlet beluga whales, already threatened by existing oil and gas activity. He and his appointees proposed a five-year program that would have expanded offshore leasing into almost all U.S. oceans, which was abandoned in the face of widespread opposition and legal setbacks. The Center and other environmental groups have called on President Biden to permanently withdraw all unleased portions of the Outer Continental Shelf, thereby halting all new oil and gas lease sales for good.
The damaging effects of fossil fuel pollutants have become clear from record-breaking global temperatures, extreme weather events becoming more frequent and severe, rising seas and coastal flooding, ocean warming and acidification, and degraded habitat, including the loss of Arctic sea ice relied on by polar bears and other endangered and threatened species.
Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons annually, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate-policy proposals in recent years.