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Oil and Gas Leases Are Revoked by a Court on Climate Change Grounds.

A federal judge ruled on Thursday that the Biden administration did not sufficiently consider climate change when it auctioned off oil and gas leases covering over 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico.

The judge found that the administration did not adequately consider climate change when it auctioned off the leases late last year.

According to environmental groups, the ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is a huge victory because it comes after the Biden administration promised to transition the country away from fossil fuels and instead held the sale. It had been the greatest lease sale in the history of the United States.

The Interior Department must now conduct a fresh environmental review that takes into consideration the greenhouse gas emissions that would arise from the development and production of the leases in the event that they are granted.

In the following weeks and months, the agency will have to decide whether or not it will host another auction.

Brettny Hardy, a senior attorney for Earthjustice, one of several environmental organizations that filed the complaint, described the outcome as “historic.”

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Mr. Hardy stated that “once these leases are issued, there will be a development that is potentially locked in for decades that will harm our global climate.”

“This requires the bureau to go back to the drawing board and actually consider climate costs before it offers these leases for sale, and that is really significant,” Ms. Hardy said, adding, “Once these leases are issued, there will be a development that is potentially locked in for decades that will harm our global climate.”

According to Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, the agency is currently evaluating its decision.

Mr. Biden campaigned on the pledge that he would put an end to the issuance of new drilling leases on public lands and in federal waterways.

“In addition, there will be no additional drilling on public lands, ever.” President Biden told voters in New Hampshire in February 2020 that “there is no such thing as a period, period, period.” He enacted an executive order shortly after assuming office, putting a halt on the issuance of new leases throughout the city.

However, a federal judge in Louisiana overturned that ruling after being sued by Republican attorneys general from 13 states. The judge also decided that the administration must hold lease sales in the Gulf that had previously been set.

Officials from the Biden administration have stated that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland faces the possibility of being held in contempt of court if the auction is not held.

Activists for environmental protection contended that the government had other options, including conducting a new analysis to determine the extent to which the burning of oil recovered from the Gulf would contribute to climate change.

An obsolete environmental review completed by the Trump administration, according to the lawsuit, was relied on by the Interior Department, which concluded that more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico would not raise greenhouse gas emissions.

According to environmental groups, the analysis did not take into account new findings concerning the influence of offshore drilling on global temperatures rising in the ocean.

“We are studying this regrettable decision and assessing our alternatives,” said Scott Lauermann, a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil and gas industries. Offshore energy development is vital to the growth and security of our nation’s economy and energy supplies.”

Companies have claimed to the court that dismissing the lease sale would jeopardize the confidentiality of the bids that had been placed for the tracts, allowing their competitors to learn who was bidding on what and for how much. The court agreed.

Perspectives on a global scale. Kerry, the United States’ special representative for climate change, stated that the world was “not on a good track” to reach its goals of transitioning away from fossil fuels. While this was going on, a new study discovered that gold miners in Peru were dumping dangerous levels of mercury into the Amazon rainforest.

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Environmental health issues are a concern. According to a recent study, hotter days were connected with a higher number of emergency care visits for children across the United States. According to another study, even modest levels of fine soot can enhance a person’s risk of dying before their time.

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For the rights to drill in around 1.7 million acres in the area allocated by the government, Shell, BP, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil each made an offer of $192 million. Despite the fact that the transaction took place on November 17, no leases have yet been given.

“The Interior Department acted arbitrarily and capriciously in excluding foreign consumption from its greenhouse gas emissions,” Judge Rudolph Contreras wrote in his ruling, noting that it had been required to do so under the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

The act requires the government to consider ecological damage when deciding whether to permit drilling and construction projects.

“The seriousness of the NEPA error in this case and the urgency for the agency to get it right,” he said, “does not exceed” whatever inconveniences that canceling the lease sales could cause.

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