Environmental groups challenge Biden administration's first oil and gas lease sale

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Environmental groups challenge Biden administration's first oil and gas lease sale

A coalition of 10 environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit late Tuesday challenging the first onshore oil and gas lease sale held under the Biden administration.

The groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians argued that additional drilling would contribute to climate change, and that the lease sale was in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Policy and Management Act. The lawsuit said that the Biden administration acknowledged the fundamentally incremental nature of the climate crisis. In a statement Wednesday, Director of the Sierra Club's Lands, Water, Wildlife campaign, Dan Ritzman said that President Biden came into office promising bold action on climate. Moving forward with these lease sales flies in the face of science and any chance for us to meet our climate goals. He said that for the sake of the environment and the future, we must transition away from the toxic fossil fuel industry that prioritizes handouts to oil and gas companies over the interests of local communities, wildlife, and conservation efforts.

The head of WildEarth Guardians' climate and energy program, Jeremy Nichols, said the Biden administration is bending over backward to appease the fossil fuel industry. He said that the administration is undermining its clean energy ambitions by moving forward with the sale.

In April, the Bureau of Land Management announced it would hold six oil and gas lease sales across eight states this month. After a federal court issued an injunction in June 2021, the administration was ordered to halt its pause on new lease sales, which President Joe Biden ordered shortly after taking office.

The sales, which were originally due to begin earlier this month, were delayed because of environmental protests, which was the first time that the administration opened up new federal land to drillers.

The groups asked the court to stop the lease sale and order the Department of the Interior DOI to redo its environmental analysis of the leasing authorizations.

The lawsuit stated that the Federal Defendants process for resuming leasing under the Program and approving the challenged Lease Sales is a prime example of the fundamental disconnect between the ongoing climate crisis and Federal Defendants management of public lands.

The filing continued, but Federal Defendants have not indicated that they intend to address or acknowledge this disconnect through a comprehensive programmatic review.

A DOI spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment.