Judge blocks government plan to scale back Gulf oil leases


A federal judge has ordered the Interior Department to expand next week’s scheduled sale of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases by millions of acres, reports the The Associated Press, rejecting a scaled-back plan announced last month by the Biden administration as part of an effort to protect an endangered whale species.

The Biden administration on Friday filed notice that it was appealing the order by U.S. District Judge James David Cain Jr. issued Thursday night in Lake Charles.

As originally proposed in March, the Sept. 27 sale would have made 73 million acres of offshore tracts available for drilling leases. That area was reduced to 67 million acres in August when the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced final plans for the sale. Cain’s injunction restores the original coverage area.

Chevron, Shell Offshore, the American Petroleum Institute and the state of Louisiana sued to reverse the cut in acreage and block the inclusion of the whale-protecting measures in the lease sale provisions. They claimed the administration’s actions violated provisions of a 2022 measure, labeled the Inflation Reduction Act, that provided broad incentives for clean energy, along with creating new drilling opportunities in the Gulf. They also said the changes after the initial lease sale was proposed in March violate federal law because they were adopted arbitrarily, without sufficient explanation of why they are needed. Read the full story.