A federal judge invalidated the U.S. Interior Department’s November oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico for failing to properly account for its climate impact, according to court filings from the U.S. Court for the District of Columbia.
The federal oil and gas lease auction of some 80 million acres (37.4 million hectares) had generated more than $190 million, the highest since 2019, and drawn bids from U.S. oil majors including Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp.
The decision by United States District Judge Rudolph Contreras came after environmental group Earthjustice challenged the sale, arguing that the administration of President Joe Biden was relying on a years-old environmental analysis that did not accurately consider greenhouse gas emissions that would result from development of the blocks.
“We are pleased that the court invalidated Interior’s illegal lease sale,” said Brettny Hardy, Earthjustice’s senior attorney, in a statement. “We simply cannot continue to make investments in the fossil fuel industry to the peril of our communities and increasingly warming planet.”
The offshore drilling industry slammed the decision.
“Uncertainty around the future of the U.S. federal offshore leasing program may only strengthen the geopolitical influence of higher emitting – and adversarial – nations, such as Russia,” National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito said in reaction to the ruling.