President Biden’s alarming choice to allow the largest sale of public waters for offshore oil drilling in U.S. history

by Seth Laxman

January 12, 2022

This goes against Biden’s campaign promises but, we can still stop it and we need to act now!

© Derick Hingle / Greenpeace

This past November, just days after pledging a return to U.S. climate leadership at COP26, President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland allowed a sale of 80 million acres of public lands for drilling by oil and gas corporations including ExxonMobil and BP in the Gulf of Mexico (Lease Sale 257). It is the largest sale of public waters for offshore drilling in U.S. history.

This not only goes against President Biden’s campaign promises, but also…

We know that fossil fuel production creates pollution and negative health impacts across every step of the supply chain. AND we know that these impacts are often racist in terms of where, and who, is subject to this pollution. 

The Gulf of Mexico has seen far too many disastrous oil spills and gas leaks that poison Gulf residents and the surrounding ecosystem. Supporting continued fossil fuel infrastructure development is supporting environmental injustice. 

Furthermore, these projects hurt even more than the communities near them. This sale will unleash greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 112 million cars or 130 coal-powered plants. That is a death sentence when we need to significantly reduce emissions now. But to push the sale forward, the Department of the Interior outrageously claims that Lease Sale 257 will have no impact on climate change or the environment.

The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to take a hard look at the environmental consequences of their proposed actions before deciding to proceed. The Department of the Interior’s decision to move forward with the sale may be based on incorrect and inaccurate information about its impact on climate change and the environment could be a direct violation of NEPA. We think the Biden administration should review these bids to ensure that the full scope of potential damage and harm to the Gulf environment and its people were taken into account. 

BUT, we can still stop it and we need to act now! A lawsuit has been filed in DC District Court alleging a flawed environmental review by the Department of the Interior. If successful, it would reverse the lease sale before they come into effect in February 2022. However, President Biden and Secretary Haaland don’t have to wait for the court’s decision.

The Interior Secretary has the authority to reject bids received during the lease sale. And the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) gives the Interior Secretary clear authority to suspend and ultimately cancel a lease at any time if activity would cause serious harm or damage to life, property, national security, and the environment. There is no doubt in our minds that Secretary Haaland must cancel Lease Sale 257 in order to protect those living in the Gulf —  particularly the Black and Indigenous peoples and communities of color who will be most impacted by the climate disasters this sale guarantees.

We must now mobilize to pressure President Biden and Secretary Haaland. Take action today!

Seth Laxman

By Seth Laxman

Seth Antonio Laxman (he/him) is a climate campaigner with Greenpeace USA. He is an environmental and transgender rights activist from Nyack, New York. An expert in sustainability and environmental justice, he is passionate about making the world a better and more beautiful place through action and art.

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