After Fifth Circuit ruling, Gulf lease sale scheduled for Dec. 20


After the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ order last week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that it scheduled Lease Sale 261 in the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico for Dec. 20, reports The Center Square.

In September, a federal judge ruled the Biden administration must go through with offshore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico by Sept. 27 as originally planned and under original conditions. The Fifth Circuit concurred but amended the ruling, pushing back the lease sale date to Nov. 8.

Last week, the appellate court ruled that the Biden administration must hold the lease sale within 37 days of its ruling on Wednesday. It also ordered BOEM to include 6 million acres in the Gulf that it had previously removed from the sale. Earlier this year, BOEM reached a settlement with environmental groups opposing the sale to purportedly protect an endangered whale species.

BOEM announced, “Pursuant to direction from the Court,” it will “include lease blocks that were previously excluded due to concerns regarding potential impacts to the Rice’s whale population in the Gulf of Mexico. BOEM will also remove portions of a related stipulation meant to address those potential impacts from the lease terms for any leases that may result from Lease Sale 261.”

Environmental groups opposing offshore drilling allege the industry would cause an endangered whale species to go extinct because it only lives in the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico. In 2019, NOAA Fisheries designated the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale as an endangered subspecies under the Endangered Species Act. In 2021, it expanded the designation to include Rice’s whale, which is also protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The state of Louisiana, American Petroleum Institute and petroleum companies Chevron and Shell sued, arguing BOEM’s policies violated federal law.

Louisiana Attorney General and Gov.-elect Jeff Landry says the rulings were “a major win not only for the rule of law, but also for Louisiana jobs and affordable energy. At a time when working families are being squeezed by unaffordable Bidenomics, I am glad to deliver yet another victory defeating overreaching bureaucrats. … Congress is clear: Lease sales must take place; so we are grateful the judge cut through the noise and upheld the law.”

BOEM issued A Final Notice of Sale for public inspection Friday, Nov. 17. Read the full story from The Center Square.