For Immediate Release, July 1, 2022

Contact:

Brady Bradshaw, Center for Biological Diversity, (442) 370-0626, bbradshaw@biologicaldiversity.org
Cyn Sarthou, Healthy Gulf, (504) 525-1528 x 202, cyn@healthygulf.org
Liz Mering, Cook Inletkeeper, (907) 235-3459, liz@inletkeeper.org

Gulf of Mexico, Alaska Targeted for Offshore Oil, Gas Leasing in Biden Plan

Proposal Could Open New Areas of Ocean for Drilling, Fracking

WASHINGTON— President Biden’s Interior Department proposed today to conduct up to 11 lease sales of offshore waters to oil and gas companies for drilling and fracking. The draft proposal could offer 10 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and potentially one in Cook Inlet, Alaska. All sales would take place between 2023 and 2028.

“We are troubled by the Biden administration's decision to continue oil and gas leasing in the Gulf and elsewhere in the U.S.,” said Cyn Sarthou, executive director of Healthy Gulf. “Now is not the time to continue business as usual. The continuing threat posed by climate change requires the nation to focus on a transition to renewable energy.”

“This Biden plan could greenlight more destructive drilling at the expense of Gulf communities, Alaska’s Cook Inlet and the global climate,” said Brady Bradshaw, senior oceans campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “President Biden campaigned on climate leadership, but he seems poised to let us down at the worst possible moment. The reckless approval of yet more offshore drilling would mean more oil spills, more dead wildlife and more polluted communities. We need a five-year plan with no new leases.”

“This decision is incredibly disappointing in the face of ongoing climate impacts that are already being deeply felt by our community around Alaska,” said Liz Mering, advocacy director at Cook Inletkeeper. “Alaskans have worked to ensure that Lower Cook Inlet remains this incredible place for our fisheries and tourism industry, which support a thriving local economy. Thirty-three years after the horrific Exxon Valdez disaster, Alaskans still remember and recognize the risk of more oil fouling our waters, killing our fish and hurting Alaskans.”

The leasing plan is another example of Biden breaking campaign promises to end federal fossil fuel leasing.

Earlier this week the Biden administration resumed of oil and gas leasing on public lands — the first auctions since the president paused leasing shortly after taking office. In 2021 the administration offered more than 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing, but a federal judge later rejected those sales, saying the Interior Department’s environmental analysis was faulty.

Today’s plan also rejects a 2021 legal petition filed by conservation and Indigenous groups requesting a leasing plan with no new leases.

The Gulf of Mexico has a long history of being the country’s “sacrifice zone” for offshore drilling. Toxic air and water pollution created by the industry has disproportionately harmed generations of Black, Brown, Indigenous and low-wealth communities living throughout the region. The majority of oil transported to land from the BP disaster was dumped in these communities. Groups say Biden should ensure a just transition away from fossil fuel, rather than deepening oil dependence.

The oil and gas industry currently leases more than 10.5 million acres offshore for continued extraction. According to a recent United Nations Report, “rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions” are necessary for governments to avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius warming and severe and irreversible impacts to food and water security, public health and safety, and biodiversity. Preserving a livable planet means that we not only need to end new fossil fuel leasing but end the approval of new fossil fuel projects and phase-out much existing production as well.

Interior will be accepting public comments on the plan for 90 days. The agency must take these public comments into consideration before finalizing the plan.

The president has the authority to end all federal fossil fuel leasing outright as promised.

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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