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In Amicus Brief, Congressmembers Huffman, Grijalva, Lowenthal Call on Federal Court to Strike Down Administration’s 80 Million Acre Oil And Gas Lease Sale In U.S. Gulf

December 08, 2021

House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC) Water, Oceans, and Wildlife subcommittee Chair, Jared Huffman (CA-02); Full HNRC Chair, Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03);  and HNRC Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee Chair, Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) have filed an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia calling on the court to vacate a controversial 80 million acre oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico that was approved without adequate environmental analysis or consideration by the Biden administration.

The lawmakers filed the amicus brief in support of a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s Interior Department by a group of environmental organizations. The original suit requests the court to find that Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) review and approval of Lease Sale 257 violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

As the amicus brief explains, this lease sale is the largest oil and gas lease sale in history, opening some 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas extraction and development. The lease covers an area of the Gulf larger than 46 of the individual states in the U.S. and would allow oil and gas development for more than 50 years in the lease area.

The sale was approved by the Biden administration at the end of August, at which time Friends of the Earth. Sierra Club, Healthy Gulf, and the Center for Biological Diversity, represented by Earthjustice, filed their lawsuit calling for the court to vacate the sale.

The amicus brief also calls upon the court to vacate BOEM’s Lease Sale 257 decision and require BOEM to conduct a proper, complete environmental review of Lease Sale 257 in compliance with NEPA, the APA, and applicable federal law.

As the lawmakers wrote in the amicus brief, “[we] are deeply concerned about BOEM’s failure to adequately analyze the environmental impacts of Lease Sale 257.  [We] are particularly shocked that BOEM has now admitted that it has the ability to perform the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions analysis it previously said it could not perform and that BOEM is pushing forward with Lease Sale 257 even as it has sought to pause the entire leasing program in order to implement major reforms to the leasing program to address environmental issues including climate change and GHG emissions. As members of Congress with oversight responsibility, [we] are deeply troubled by BOEM’s determination to proceed with Lease Sale 257 despite its own findings that the largest lease sale in history has not had an adequate environmental review.”

The amicus brief also points out that BOEM ignored information warranting a supplemental Environmental Impact Study (EIS) regarding the lease sale and that cannot blame the plaintiffs for BOEM’s failure to evaluate the information plaintiffs provided to BOEM showing the need for further environmental review.

Each of the lawmakers has previously stated publicly that they support an administration pause of new oil and gas lease sales in order to adequately and comprehensively evaluate the federal oil and gas leasing program in order to adequately ensure that the program addresses environmental impacts from fossil fuel extraction.

The Member’s state in the amicus brief, “BOEM’s position changed from recognizing the need to pause the entire leasing program so it could conduct ‘comprehensive review’ of lease sales in light of the acknowledged climate change crises,  to plowing ahead with Lease Sale 257, opening up 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to leasing based on the environmental documentation the Bureau has deemed in need of a comprehensive review. BOEM’s approval of Lease Sale 257 based on the earlier NEPA documents cannot be reconciled with the Interior Department’s conclusions that BOEM’s leasing program, including Lease Sale 257, ‘inadequately account for environmental harms.’”

The amicus brief concludes by calling on the court to vacate the lease sale.

You can read the entire amicus brief by clicking here.

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