Climate Coalition Demands Biden Halt ‘Outrageous’ Offshore Drilling Auction—Largest in US History

The proposed lease sale, said over 250 groups in a joint letter, “shockingly offers more area than the Trump administration initially proposed.”

By Brett Wilkins.  Published 11-10-2021 by Common Dreams.

Offshore oil rig off Catalina Island. Ohoto: arbyreed/flickr/CC

As the Biden administration prepares to auction off more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel extraction, over 250 advocacy groups published an open letter on Wednesday imploring U.S. President Joe Biden to cancel the sale and fulfill his promises of bold climate action.

At least 267 organizations, including 36 representing Gulf of Mexico communities, sent the letter to Biden, who just last week promised the world at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Scotland—also known as COP26—that the United States will be “leading by the power of our example” in the fight against the planetary emergency.

“You promised to address the climate crisis with the urgency it deserves, and in Glasgow, you assured the world that your plans to cut emissions are a fait accompli, not mere rhetoric,” the letter states. “Selling more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas development just days after the international climate talks makes a mockery of those commitments.”

The authors were referring to next week’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Lease Sale 257, which, according to the federal agency, will be the eighth U.S. offshore auction under the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The administration confirmed the auction date less than 48 hours after one of the worst offshore oil spills in Southern California history.

Friends of the Earth, which is leading the letter against the “outrageous” sale, said in a statement that “aside from breaking a campaign promise to ban new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters, the Biden administration also violated federal law in deciding to open more of the Gulf to offshore drilling.”

The November 17 auction is the subject of a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Friends of the Earth, Healthy Gulf, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club.

The groups’ letter notes that next week’s lease sale “will result in the production of up to 1.12 billion barrels and 4.4 trillion cubic feet of fossil fuels over the next 50 years.”

“The sale shockingly offers more area than the Trump administration initially proposed and ranks as the largest offshore lease sale in U.S. history,” it continues. “Ironically, the lease sale was announced as the deadly Hurricane Ida made landfall on the Louisiana coast, wreaking havoc on the same frontline communities your administration committed to help heal by stopping the deep-rooted injustices perpetrated by the oil and gas industry and helping build clean, sustainable local economies.”

“Reversing course on climate change must start here, and it must start now,” the signers assert. “The Gulf of Mexico continues to be treated as a sacrificial zone to oil and gas development, disproportionately harming local communities already at the frontlines of climate disaster, wreaking havoc on the environment, and contributing to global climate change.”

“The region’s communities are frontline Black, Indigenous, and people of color and low-income families who have been living with degraded air, land, and water for decades,” the letter continues. “It is beyond time that the federal government stops ignoring this grave injustice.”

“There is still time to keep your promise to end new leases on public lands and waters and address environmental racism,” the signers assure Biden. “Please utilize your existing authority and defer Lease Sale 257 to reckon with the latest evidence and properly estimate and acknowledge the full range of impacts from lease sales in this region.”

Climate Action Network (CAN) International also called out the administration this week for the upcoming auction.

Throughout COP26, CAN has been “awarding” a #FossiloftheDay to countries “doing the most to achieve the least” to tackle the climate emergency. On Tuesday, the group bestowed the dubious “honor” upon the United States.

“Only last week in Glasgow, President Biden was talking sprints, marathons and finishing lines in the race to net-zero,” CAN explained. “Seems like he’s had enough of those sporting analogies and is back to speaking the language of black gold and carbon as the U.S. is set to announce a new oil and gas drilling program off the Gulf Coast.”

Blasting Biden as a “fossil fuel enabler-in-chief,” the group noted that his administration has even outdone former President Donald Trump “by approving over 3,000 new drilling permits on public lands.”

Additionally, CAN continued, Biden “has refused to stop the Line 3 pipeline, expected to transport 760,000 barrels per day, and is keeping the fossil fuel lobby happy with sweet whispers of carbon capture storage and hydrogen.”

“And the cherry on this carbon cake,” CAN added, is that “the U.S. shunned a global pact to commit to a coal end date.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
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