U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Rudolph Contreras linked arms with environmental groups and threw out a massive oil and gas lease sale. His reason is that the Biden administration did not sufficiently take climate change into account when it auctioned the leases late last year.
Contreras ruled that the Biden administration violated federal law when it relied on an “arbitrary and capricious” climate change impact model. It was the largest lease sale in U.S. history. The decision came down on Thursday. This is a major victory for environmental groups angry with the Biden administration for moving forward with the sale after promising to move away from fossil fuels.
“This is huge,” said Brettny Hardy, a senior attorney for Earthjustice, one of several environmental groups that brought the lawsuit.
“This requires the bureau to go back to the drawing board and actually consider the climate costs before it offers these leases for sale, and that’s really significant,” Ms. Hardy said, adding, “Once these leases are issued, there’s development that’s potentially locked in for decades to come that is going to hurt our global climate.”
Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said the agency was reviewing the decision.
Biden administration officials claim that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland had to go forward with the lease sale auction or else risk being held in contempt of court. Biden signed an executive order to put a halt to issuing new oil and gas drilling leases on federal lands as soon as he took office. Soon after that, thirteen state attorneys general, all Republicans sued and a federal judge in Louisiana blocked Biden’s order. The judge also ruled that the administration must hold the lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico that had been scheduled by the Trump administration. Thus, Haaland went forward with the auction.
Environmental groups demanded a new analysis be conducted to determine if burning oil extracted from the Gulf of Mexico contributes to climate change. We’ve seen this tactic before – environment groups also demand new analysis when pipelines are being planned on land. They keep demanding new analysis be conducted to drag out the process and hope to eventually get an analysis to their liking that would shut it down. The groups tie up progress in paperwork for years, if possible.
By vacating Interior’s decision to hold the lease sale, the court has ensured that no harm will result from it, the environmental groups, including Earthjustice and Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement after the ruling.
Whatever Interior decides to do, it must start with a blank slate on the lease program and consider the full environmental costs associated with auctioning off public waters to the fossil-fuel industry, the groups said.
“This is a huge victory for our climate, Rice’s whales and Gulf communities,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’m thrilled the court saw through the Biden administration’s horribly reckless decision to hold the largest oil lease sale in U.S. history without carefully studying the risks.”
Thanks to the Biden administration’s determination to destroy the oil and gas industry in our country, we are no longer energy independent. One of Trump’s biggest successes in domestic policy was to enable the energy industry to reach its potential and use an all of the above attitude to energy exploration. Traditional oil and gas exploration as well as clean energy development and use flourished. Biden came into office and destroyed all of that free enterprise. Now we are back to depending on nefarious countries like Russia to supplement what we can produce for ourselves.
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Rudolph Contreras was appointed in 2012 by Barack Obama. Obama, too, tried to destroy the fossil fuel industry in favor of clean energy alternatives that were still decades away from producing enough energy to support America’s needs. We shouldn’t be surprised that the environmental wackos found an ally in the judicial system willing to lend an assist to their agenda.
Scott Lauermann, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil and gas companies, said in a statement: “We are reviewing this disappointing decision and considering our options. Offshore energy development plays a critical role in strengthening our nation’s economy and energy security.”
Vacating the lease sale violates the confidential bid nature of the auction process. Too bad, the judge doesn’t care about that. Kissing the ring of environmental activists is more important to him. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.
Companies had argued to the court that vacating the lease sale would compromise the confidential bids that were submitted for the tracts, making their competitors aware of who was bidding on what, and for how much.
Shell, BP, Chevron and Exxon Mobil offered $192 million for the rights to drill in about 1.7 million acres in the area offered by the government. Though the sale occurred on Nov. 17, the leases have not yet been issued.
Judge Rudolph Contreras said in his ruling that the Interior Department “acted arbitrarily and capriciously in excluding foreign consumption from their greenhouse gas emissions” and that it was required to do so under the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which says the government must consider ecological damage when deciding whether to permit drilling and construction projects.
Any disruptions that revoking the lease sales might cause, he wrote, “do not outweigh the seriousness of the NEPA error in this case and the need for the agency to get it right.”
Joe Biden’s boneheaded decisions and those of liberal judges will come back to bite him as he depends on the economy to come back strong as the pandemic wanes. The economy is a top issue for voters and with the midterm elections coming up this year, the price of filling up their gas tanks and paying for winter fuel for their homes will be foremost on their minds as they cast a ballot.