Washington, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and the Biden Administration continued to defend their decision to host the largest offshore lease sale in U.S. history with a filing in federal court yesterday, arguing against the lawsuit brought forward by environmental groups, including Healthy Gulf, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and Center for Biological Diversity, that a Trump-era analysis of the GHG emissions from the sale failed to take into account its full impact on the climate and the environment, in violation of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).
As the Guardian revealed earlier this week, Biden’s Department of Justice acknowledged in a previous legal filing that they weren’t obligated to hold the sale, but the Department of Interior proceeded with it anyway. Now, with a clear opportunity to rescind the permits or at least put them on hold until a full NEPA analysis is completed, DOI is continuing to argue that no additional review is needed.
Climate groups with the Build Back Fossil Free coalition, which is pressuring the Biden Administration to stop approving fossil fuel projects, criticized the administration on Friday for continuing to take a “Trump-era” approach to fossil fuels rather than deliver on their promise to end fossil fuel extraction on public lands.
Build Back Fossil Free and its allies have continued to keep up pressure on the administration to revoke the permits it sold in November’s lease sale. Last week, over 1,000 calls were made to Secretary Haaland’s office demanding DOI cancel the sale and previously over 100,000 petitions were sent. Celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo have joined environmental groups in a social media campaign to #StopTheSale.
On Monday, Food and Water Watch and youth climate organizations also filed a FOIA request to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), seeking communications related to the lease sale between Interior Secretary Haaland, DOI and BOEM officials, White House officials including John Kerry, Gina McCarthy, Ron Klain, David Hayes, members of Congress and their staff including Senators Manchin and Sinema, and the oil and gas industry.
“One minute Biden says he is going to tackle the climate crisis, the next he tries to illegally auction off our waters in the South,” said Love Sanchez, co-founder of Indigenous People of the Coastal Bend in Corpus Christi, TX, and a member of the Karankawa Kadla. “The South is where predominantly Black and Brown communities live. This is clearly environmental racism. I feel for my relatives in Louisiana. If you look at the sale, if it is finalized, these offshores will be built closer to Louisiana. Our Corpus Christi bay area will also be damaged. I commend the lawyers trying to stop them. I commend the people standing up to stop it. We will continue to stand with those trying to stop this offshore illegal auction.”
“Even though Biden campaigned on being the ‘climate president,’ we’ve seen a year of him putting fossil fuel corporations before our communities, especially Black, Brown and Indigenous communities that have been targeted and harmed by the industry for generations. Among his failures, Biden ignored frontline Indigenous leaders’ calls for him to halt major fossil fuel projects like the Line 3, Dakota Access, and Line 5 pipelines, and instead, he used his executive powers to host the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in US history. Biden should count on massive demonstrations at the White House in 2022 if he doesn’t get his act together,” said Erika Thi Patterson, Campaign Director for Climate and Environmental Justice at the Action Center on Race and the Economy.
“Biden made a lot of promises on climate, but evidently he didn’t make a plan to keep them,” said Kassie Siegel, Climate Law Institute Director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Greenlighting a massive Gulf oil lease sale and failing to stop the Line 3 pipeline are just two of the flagship failures that define this administration’s deeply disappointing record on climate so far. Biden can still rescue his agenda by resolving to aggressively curb fossil fuel production. He can still summon the courage to put people over a handful of oil executives, but he has to act now.”
“Just days after COP26, where Biden committed to tackling the climate crisis with ‘actions, not words,’ he broke his campaign promise and held the largest oil and gas sale in the Gulf South. A climate president doesn’t drill for more oil, doesn’t sell off huge parts of public lands to the fossil fuel industry, and doesn’t cower to oil and gas executives that are profiting off of the destruction of our communities. Biden must do everything in his power through executive actions and the passage of Build Back Better to tackle the climate crisis – anything less would be a historic abdication of responsibility and confirmation that Biden really is all talk and no action,” said Varshini Prakash, Executive Director of Sunrise Movement.