Image by Keri Jackson from Pixabay

On again and off again. The oil industry wants it on while environmentalists want it off.

In a preliminary proposal that will take months to confirm, the Biden administration is floating the possibility of nixing oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico and the rest of the outer continental shelf for the next five years. As required by federal law, the Department of the Interior on Friday released a draft of a plan that typically outlines a schedule of proposed lease sales for the outer continental shelf for the next five years. The sales allow oil and gas extraction companies to bid for drilling space in offshore waters. The last five-year plan, which was created by the Obama administration and implemented in mid-2017, expired Thursday. The Trump administration proposed a new plan in 2018, but no action was ever taken on it, in part because it received backlash for attempting to expand the scope of leases in offshore waters. However, amid the Biden administration’s battle over offshore drilling, the latest plan calls for the possibility of anywhere from no lease sales to 11 lease sales over the next five years. The possible sales include a maximum of 10 in the Gulf of Mexico and one in the Cook Inlet in Alaska.

The plan is the same as the Obama one but if none are offered that would be news.

Interior Department officials said the proposed plan mirrors the Obama administration’s previous plan. Should a plan be approved with no sales, however, it would be the first time they won’t take place since the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act was updated in 1978 to require five-year leasing plans. The proposed plan largely limits leasing options to the Gulf of Mexico. Federal waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts are prohibited under the draft plan, as they were in the Obama plan. The Interior Department emphasized that the proposed plan is only a draft and must be finalized before new lease sales can occur. It also said including an area in the draft doesn’t mean it will make it to the final five-year plan. The plan must go through at least a 90-day comment period before an updated plan is published. From there, Congress and the president have another 60 days to review and approve it. “From day one, President Biden and I have made clear our commitment to transition to a clean energy economy,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “Today, we put forward an opportunity for the American people to consider and provide input on the future of offshore oil and gas leasing. The time for the public to weigh in on our future is now.”

Biden has put the lease sale on hold as they look at the effect on climate change. The Ukraine War has changed the equations.

Shortly after taking office in January 2021, Biden signed an executive order that called for a review of the leasing program and halted new leases on federal lands and offshore waters. The move was part of his broader agenda to curb drilling and fight the fossil fuel industry’s carbon footprint. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, along with 12 other Republican attorneys general, filed suit two months later to block Biden’s order. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Lafayette granted a preliminary injunction in favor of Landry and the Republicans, paving the way for a November 2021 lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. As the Biden administration appealed Doughty’s injunction, the results of the sale were invalidated by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington, who ruled in a separate lawsuit that the sale violated federal law by failing to properly account for potential effects on greenhouse gas emissions. Landry, along with the American Petroleum Institute, have appealed Contreras’ ruling.

There was a similar case out of Lake Charles.

In a similar court case, U.S. District Judge James David Cain, of Lake Charles, ruled that the Biden administration’s use of higher federal estimates of the cost of greenhouse gas emissions were too burdensome for energy-producing states. The estimates, known as the “social cost of carbon,” identify the economic costs of emitting one additional ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In an appeal, the Biden administration said oil and gas leases had stopped since Cain’s ruling. The lease fights are continuing at a time when elevated gas prices are hurting Americans at the pump. The national average was $4.87 per gallon as of Wednesday and $4.43 in Louisiana, compared to $3.11 and $2.75 one year ago, according to AAA.

From leasing to drilling is years and the question is that as we go to more EV’s and hybrids how much oil and gas may be needed.

Gulf leases under question
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