Biden Delays Mandatory Oil and Gas Lease Sale
The Biden Administration’s decision to indefinitely delay a major oil and gas lease sale mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has once again raised concerns about its commitment to American energy leadership and reducing reliance on foreign energy sources. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the delay of Lease Sale 261, covering nearly 73 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, citing legal uncertainties arising from last-minute environmental restrictions.
Under the IRA, BOEM was originally instructed to hold the sale by the end of September. However, the lease sale became the subject of litigation after the agency imposed environmental restrictions, reducing the available acreage for oil and gas extraction by six million acres. The American Petroleum Institute (API), the State of Louisiana, and U.S. oil company Chevron filed a lawsuit against BOEM in late August, contesting these restrictions.
Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the plaintiffs on September 21, ordering the Biden administration to proceed with Lease Sale 261 without restrictions. The government appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed BOEM to delay the sale until November 8. Subsequently, the appeals panel issued an indefinite stay on the lower court’s preliminary injunction, and the next arguments in the case are scheduled for November 13.
This delay has raised concerns about the Biden administration’s commitment to expanding American energy production and reducing reliance on imports. API Vice President of Upstream Policy Holly Hopkins criticized the Department of the Interior’s actions, noting that this delay, along with other policy decisions, undermines the certainty needed for investments in future production. The U.S. oil and natural gas industry stands ready to support the nation’s energy security through reliable energy produced in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
In response to the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court’s ruling, bipartisan leaders on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, including Chairman Joe Manchin, expressed their frustration with the delay and called on BOEM to move forward with the sale. Manchin emphasized that the delays were entirely the administration’s fault, as it had eagerly sought to restrict the sale to meet the demands of environmental groups, bypassing important legal requirements that led to the litigation.
The delay is part of a larger pattern where the Biden administration’s energy policies have been criticized for hindering domestic energy production. From issuing the weakest 5-year program for offshore leasing in U.S. history to repeatedly delaying Congressionally-mandated lease sales, concerns persist about the administration’s commitment to American energy leadership.
It’s important to note that the delays have real consequences for energy security. The longer gaps between offshore sales mean that the U.S. risks becoming more reliant on foreign sources of energy. In a time when achieving energy independence is a vital goal, these delays raise serious questions about the administration’s approach to energy policy.
While protecting endangered species and the environment is crucial, energy security and domestic oil and gas production also play key roles in the country’s overall well-being. It remains to be seen how the Biden Administration will navigate this complex issue and prioritize American energy leadership while addressing environmental concerns.