Despite Joe Biden’s warning that climate change is a “code red” emergency for the planet, his administration has continued to boost fossil fuel projects and is now preparing to expand offshore drilling.
The White House argues that a court order it opposes and is appealing requires federal officials to lease more than 78m acres of the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel exploration. Environmental groups, however, assert that federal law gives the administration broad discretion over whether to hold such sales.
Biden’s officials have used that power to officially declare that a warning presented in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report “does not present sufficient cause” to review the drilling plan.
Biden spoke at a press conference last week, calling for America to “get real” about the issues surrounding climate change, such as the costs of it. He said: “Extreme weather cost America last year $99bn, and it’s going to break the record this year. It’s going to be well over $100bn”.
Hallie Templeton, deputy legal director for Friends of the Earth told the Daily Poster: “We’ve been very patient with [Biden’s] administration. They honeymoon’s over. It’s now September, they’ve been in office for eight months. It’s time for them to show that they have priorities and are meaningfully going to move in the right direction”.
Earlier this year, Biden issued an executive order pausing “new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters, pending completing of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices”.
The administration announced, not long after the order, that it was cancelling the planned lease sales of 78.2m acres in the Gulf of Mexico, before the bidding process in March. This is in an effort to make good on a forceful campaign promise Biden had made to end drilling on federal land as it accounts for about a quarter of US carbon emissions.
The administration was sued following the US president’s order by 13 Republican states so it would restart the leasing program. States that sued include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
Wyoming also sued in a separate suit.
In June, Terry Doughty, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Louisiana, granted the 13 states a nationwide preliminary injunction against Biden’s order, directing the leasing program be resumed. Following the ruling, the Republican states involved in the lawsuit filed a motion to hold the Interior Department in contempt for refusing to follow the order.
The Biden Administration responded by filing a notice that was appealing Doughty’s order, as well as a defiant brief challenging the Republican states’ motion on the grounds that the court did “not compel Interior to take the actions specified by plaintiffs, let alone on the urgent timeline specified in plaintiffs’ contempt motion”.
On 1 September 2021, the White House announced it would be moving forward with the Gulf of Mexico lease sale, and saying that the IPCC report would not change its environmental views on the plan.
“This report does not present sufficient cause to supplement the (environmental impact statement) at this time”.
Templeton added that the government’s latest comment does not make sense: “Why rely on five-year-old environmental analyses to continue this permitting when the law is clear [that] you’ve got to have updated analysis and rely on the best available science?
“We have science since 2016 showing that climate change is worse than ever and our timeline is not a long to reverse course”.