On January 27, 2022, the D.C. District Court vacated the Department of Interior’s approval of Lease Sale 257, the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in U.S. History which would have opened over 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas extraction and development, because Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) relied on flawed analysis of greenhouse gas emissions. The Court determined that BOEM violated the National Environmental Policy Act, finding that the agency underestimated climate change impacts by diverging from past practice of considering foreign use of oil and gas in its environmental analysis.
Lease Sale 257 was approved by the Biden administration at the end of August 2021, 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.
Firm attorneys Nate Hunt, Eric Pilsk, and Wil Mumby prepared an amicus brief on behalf of House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC) Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee Chair, Alan Lowenthal (CA-47); Full HNRC Chair, Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03); and HNRC Water, Oceans, and Wildlife subcommittee Chair, Jared Huffman (CA-02) in support of the lawsuit. The Court’s decision cites to the amicus brief as identifying the inconsistency between BOEM’s position and its past practice: “As amici Members of Congress point out, the Federal Defendants’ position that the prior EISs were adequate to fulfill NEPA’s hard look requirement for Lease Sale 257 is in some tension with its own treatment of that issue over the past several months.”
The decision confirms the critical importance of a thorough greenhouse gas emissions analysis in federal decisions regarding oil and gas extraction which are so directly connected to climate change. This decision is particularly important because it halts development of oil and gas in an area of the Gulf larger than 46 of the individual states in the United States to allow for a thorough and proper analysis of the environmental impacts of Lease Sale 257.
Click here to read the D.C. District Court’s decision. Click here to read the amicus brief.
Earthjustice: Court Finds Massive Offshore Oil Lease Sale in Gulf Based on Faulty Legal Analysis
NY Times: Court Revokes Oil and Gas Leases, Citing Climate Change
NPR: A federal judge canceled major oil and gas leases over climate change