Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 29, 2023


Brady Bradshaw, Center for Biological Diversity, (412) 722-9280,
Stephannie Kettle, Healthy Gulf, (407) 361-9432
Sue Mauger, Cook Inletkeeper, (907) 399-2070

Biden Offshore Drilling Plan Exposes U.S., Climate to More Harm

WASHINGTON— The Interior Department finalized a plan today to conduct offshore oil and gas lease sales over the next five years. The plan offers 3 auctions between 2024 and 2029 in the Gulf of Mexico.

“I feel disgusted and incredibly let down by Biden’s offshore drilling plan. It piles more harm on already-struggling ecosystems, endangered species and the global climate,” said Brady Bradshaw, senior oceans campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need Biden to commit to a fossil fuel phaseout, but actions like this condemn us to oil spills, climate disasters and decades of toxic harm to communities and wildlife.”

“We're disappointed the Biden administration did not follow through on a promise of no new leasing, and instead, the residents of the Gulf of Mexico are having their resources sold off for bargain prices once again,” said Christian Wagley, coastal organizer at Healthy Gulf. “These new leases lock us into continued dependence on extractive fossil fuels, instead of moving towards a clean and just energy economy that Americans not only want but is a necessity to stave off climate disaster. Furthermore, Gulf communities are tired of being a sacrifice zone, experiencing the effects of climate change first while other regions remain protected from new leases.”

“Alaskans stand in solidarity with frontline Gulf of Mexico communities,” said Sue Mauger, executive director of Cook Inletkeeper. “Although we are relieved that Lower Cook Inlet is off the chopping block, the Biden administration missed a critical opportunity to combat climate change by including the Gulf in the five-year oil and gas leasing plan. By locking us into decades of increased fossil fuel production and usage, while the climate crisis rages on, this administration has failed to deliver on its promises of environmental justice and climate action by needlessly putting our future at risk for the sake of profit and oil and gas lobbyists.”

President Biden has already offered tens of millions of acres of U.S. lands and waters to the fossil fuel industry during his term. These sales were mostly the result of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden supported.

The IRA also ties the federal government’s ability to issue future leases for offshore wind power to offshore oil and gas leasing, requiring it to have offered at least 60 million acres to the oil industry in the one-year period prior to issuing the wind lease. But researchers have found that President Biden will exceed his goal of building 30 gigawatts of wind power capacity by 2030 without new oil leasing in a five-year plan. A separate report demonstrates that the U.S. can meet its energy needs many times over without burdening more ecosystems by utilizing already-developed or degraded land on which to build renewable energy.

The Biden administration has the legal authority to issue a plan with no new leases and to create a plan for a managed decline of fossil fuel production on existing leases.

In 2021 a federal judge struck down an oil and gas lease sale of more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico on the basis of flawed climate analysis. But that same sale was revived and mandated in the IRA. An additional sale of more than 67 million acres in the Gulf is scheduled to take place on or before Nov. 8. The Center and partners challenged that sale under the National Environmental Policy Act for failing to consider health risks to Gulf communities near associated infrastructure, threats to Rice’s whales, and other reasons.

The five-year plan disregards a 2021 legal petition filed by conservation and Indigenous groups urging a leasing plan with no new leases.

Toxic air and water pollution from oil and gas production have been disproportionately harming Black, Brown and Indigenous low-wealth communities for decades. The Gulf of Mexico in particular has a high density of oil facilities, with more than 54,000 wells drilled since the 1950s, and Gulf communities suffer from related pollution.

On Sept. 17, 75,000 people marched in New York City ahead of the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit. Marchers and more than 700 endorsing organizations demanded that President Biden declare a climate emergency, stop approving new fossil fuel projects, phase out existing extraction, and provide a just transition for workers to clean, renewable energy jobs.

At the Climate Ambition Summit, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called for world leaders, especially major emitters like the United States, to commit to no new coal, oil and gas development, and present a plan to phase out fossil fuels. This would have required President Biden to issue a five-year plan without new oil leases and commit to a scheduled phaseout of oil and gas drilling.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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