Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., blasted the Biden administration Thursday for its actions delaying a major offshore oil and gas lease sale, and called for it to move forward with the sale within two weeks.
Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, made his comments after a federal appeals court stayed a lower court ruling striking down the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) last-minute restrictions on the lease sale. Lease Sale 261 — which is set to span nearly 73 million acres across the Gulf of Mexico — was originally set for September but was delayed to early November amid the ongoing litigation.
OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS PERMITTING PLUMMETS TO 2-DECADE LOW UNDER BIDEN
“This administration has made a complete mess of Lease Sale 261, despite clear direction in the [Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)] to proceed with this sale by September 30,” Manchin said in a statement. “The Department of the Interior was so eager to capitulate to demands from environmental groups that it bypassed important legal requirements, leading to litigation which had already delayed this sale until November 8.”
“Shrinking or further delaying Lease Sale 261 threatens both our energy security and climate goals and could make us more dependent on dirty foreign oil and gas — especially since the IRA prohibits BOEM from continuing offshore wind leases if oil and gas leases are not proceeding,” he continued.
TED CRUZ, TOP DEM SENATOR TEAM UP TO PRESS BIDEN ADMIN ON OIL DRILLING RESTRICTIONS
The IRA, which Manchin spearheaded last year, mandated that the Biden administration hold Lease Sale 261 by September 30 in addition to two other previously planned offshore Gulf of Mexico lease sales. The White House attempted to axe the three sales, including 261, in an abrupt move in May 2022, arguing that there was little industry interest in the sales.
As Manchin pointed out, the legislation also tethers new offshore wind energy leases to new oil and gas leases, meaning the former could be threatened without consistent fossil fuel leasing.
In late August, the fossil fuel industry group American Petroleum Institute (API), alongside the State of Louisiana and U.S. oil company Chevron, sued BOEM after the agency issued its notice of sale for Lease Sale 261, which made six million fewer acres available to oil and gas extraction than previously scheduled, as part of a settlement with eco groups. The agency also created multiple restrictions for companies that obtain leases for drilling.
BIDEN ADMIN UNVEILS SWEEPING NEW ACTIONS INCREASING COSTS FOR OIL, GAS LEASING
Then, on September 21, Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction to plaintiffs and ordered the Biden administration to proceed with Lease Sale 261 without restrictions. After the government appealed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed BOEM to delay the sale until November 8.
And on Thursday, the appeals panel issued an indefinite stay on the lower court’s preliminary injunction. The next arguments in the case are set for November 13, and it is unclear whether BOEM will delay the lease sale further as a result of Thursday’s ruling.
A BOEM spokesperson declined to comment.
“We believe the injunction that halted the Biden Administration’s unlawful restrictions on the continued access and development of reliable, lower-carbon energy in the Gulf of Mexico was fully justified and we look forward to making the case in the Fifth Circuit,” API Senior Vice President and General Counsel Ryan Meyers told Fox News Digital in a statement.
“We will continue to work to provide greater certainty for American energy workers, the Gulf Coast economy and a stronger future for U.S. energy security,” Meyers said.
BLUE STATE DELIVERS CRIPPLING BLOW TO GREEN ENERGY DEVELOPMENT, JEOPARDIZING BIDEN’S CLIMATE GOALS
On Thursday, Manchin added that if the federal government must withdraw from its voluntary settlement agreement with environmental groups to ensure that Lease Sale 261 will be held on November 8, “so be it.”
In the federal stipulated stay agreement filed on July 21, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) agreed to a number of conditions requested by the groups that, in response, agreed to temporarily pause litigation in the related case. The case dates back nearly three years when, in October 2020, the environmental coalition sued the NMFS for failing to properly assess the oil industry’s impacts on endangered and threatened marine wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico.
The groups pursued the lawsuit after the NMFS coordinated a multi-agency consultation studying the effects that all federally regulated oil and gas activities would have on species listed under the Endangered Species Act in the Gulf of Mexico over the next 50 years. The groups argued in the original complaint that the NMFS’ biological opinion resulting from its consultation was not based on the best science.
The settlement specifically expands protections for the Rice’s whale, a species listed as endangered.
Read the full article here