As international climate talks continue, a coalition of 267 organizations – including 36 representing Gulf of Mexico communities – delivered a letter today to President Biden requesting that his Interior Department immediately cancel next week’s Lease Sale 257 in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite assurance of strong climate action, Biden’s Department of Interior will place more than 80 million acres of the Gulf on the auction block for oil and gas development just days after COP26 in Glasgow.
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 megasale is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit brought by Earthjustice on behalf of Friends of the Earth, Healthy Gulf, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club over outdated and insufficient environmental analysis.
The groups challenge the administration’s outrageous conclusion that the sale would not contribute to climate change and note its failure to address impacts of drilling activity on frontline communities and protected species. In fact, as stated in the letter, the administration “has existing authority to defer” the megasale, which “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.”
Communities in the Gulf of Mexico have suffered a long and fraught history of living in the nation’s sacrificial zone to offshore drilling. The groups highlight the irony that the lease sale was announced in August 2021 just as deadly Hurricane Ida made landfall on the Louisiana coast, “wreaking havoc on the same frontline communities the Administration committed to help heal.”
According to the groups, reversing course on the climate crisis starts with Biden keeping his promise to end new leases on public lands and waters and finally end deep-rooted injustices perpetrated by the oil and gas industry. “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 states. “It is beyond time that the federal government stops ignoring this grave injustice.”
You can read the full text of the letter here.