Four environmentalist groups were handed a major defeat in their efforts to set back American energy production when an appeals court threw out their suit to prevent the sale of drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday.
The Biden administration had asked the court to delay the sale while the litigation worked its way through the courts.
Instead, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit dismissed the case entirely, stating that the environmentalists lacked standing to sue in the first place, and ordered the auction of the drilling rights to to be held “within 37 days,” Reuters reported.
The auction had been scheduled for September 29, then was postponed to November 8, and then was put on an indefinite hold pending results of the outstanding litigation.
“Until the court rules, BOEM cannot be certain of which areas or stipulations may be included in the sale notice,” the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said in a statement at the time.
The BOEM, part of the Department of the Interior, had cut about 6 million acres from the area available for lease in an effort to protect the endangered whale.
The court’s decision Tuesday makes all of that land available for lease again.
“The U.S. Gulf of Mexico plays a critical role in maintaining affordable, reliable American energy production, and today’s decision creates greater certainty for the essential energy workforce and the entire Gulf Coast economy,” said Ryan Meyers, general counsel for the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement following the appeals court decision.
The API was one plaintiff in the suit that sought to expand the sale of drilling rights, an expansion some environmental groups opposed because of potential consequences for the endangered Rice’s whale. Chevron Corporation and the state of Louisiana were also plaintiffs, Reuters said.
“This disappointing and unjustified ruling could be the death knell for the nearly extinct Rice’s whale,” Earthjustice attorney George Torgun told Reuters in an email.
Earthjustice represented environmental groups Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and Turtle Island Restoration Network in the litigation.
A spokesperson for President Joe Biden’s Department of the Interior, which oversees drilling lease auctions, had no comment when contacted by Reuters.
The New York Times reported in September that, under the Biden administration, fewer lease sales had taken place than at any other time since the federal government started leasing lands to private energy companies for drilling.
The law requires oil drilling leases to be auctioned before the government can allow wind turbines for so-called “clean energy” production to be built in waters controlled by the Interior Department.
Oil companies at the time warned of higher oil and gas prices from the limited oil drilling, the Times reported.
Notably, a statement from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland cited by the Times focused on the wind turbines and not the oil exploration potential of the new lease auctions.
The lease auction “sets a course for the department to support the growing offshore wind industry and protect against the potential for environmental damage and adverse impacts to coastal communities,” Halaand said in the statement.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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