The Biden administration’s proposed plan for leasing offshore oil and gas for the next five years has left fossil fuel advocates wanting more and environmental groups hoping for less.
The plan – unveiled by the Interior Department on Friday a day after the previous plan expired – calls for between zero and 11 lease sales over the next five years, all but one of which are proposed for the Gulf of Mexico . The plan must go through at least a 90-day public comment period before the Interior Department can send a revised draft to Congress and President Joe Biden for consideration.
Mirroring the latest five-year plan, the Interior Department’s draft limits leasing to the central and western Gulf, off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas, and continues a federal drilling moratorium in the east of the gulf. It foresees one lease sale in the Gulf in 2023 and two each from 2024 to 2027, followed by another in 2028.
The only sale outside the Gulf would be to Cook Inlet in Alaska. The Atlantic and Pacific coasts would be off limits.
“Sales” allow companies to bid for exploration leases in federal offshore waters.
Fossil fuel advocates say a lack of lease sales would devastate Gulf Coast economies that rely on drilling for jobs, tax revenue and coastal restoration funds. But environmental groups have criticized the possibility of any sale, saying it is unnecessary and will do little to lower gas prices or help the US economy.
Mike Moncla, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, called the plan “ambiguous, to say the least.”
“This was an opportunity for the Biden administration to show Americans that they are committed to domestic production, and they chose to give us more ambiguity,” Moncla said in a statement.
Tommy Faucheux, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, said the proposed plan doesn’t do enough to meet the nation’s energy needs.
“Despite the announcement of a new plan, the (Department of the Interior) is still well behind in this multi-year regulatory process and the consequences for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast will be enormous,” Faucheux said in a statement. .
U.S. Representative Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, blasted the leasing program’s failure, saying it would lead the United States to dependence on oil from abroad and starve the state of Coastal Protection Act funds. Gulf of Mexico Energy Security, or GOMESA.
“Residents of southern Louisiana already cannot afford day-to-day expenses due to the policies of the Biden administration, and the price we will pay to pick up the pieces after the next storm will be salt in the wound,” said Graves in a statement.
U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, called the no-lease option “extreme and reckless.”
“This sweeping plan comes at a time when Louisiana families are facing record high gas prices and runaway inflation that is hurting our economy,” said Scalise, the House Republican whip.
But Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, noted that future leases will not have an immediate effect on gas prices because it takes years for exploration companies to extract oil. She said those same companies have thousands of unused leases they could use now.
Rolfes also questioned why the Gulf of Mexico — and not the Atlantic or Pacific coasts — was the focus of the plan.
The East and West Coasts “are not just giving away all of their states to oil,” she added. “At some point, Louisiana has to come to terms with that and stop handing our state over to the oil industry.”
Rolfes said his organization will continue to work toward its goal of not selling leases in the future.
“I’m going to work with the reality, and the reality is there’s still a possibility to make sure they don’t get any,” she said.
Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation at environmental law group Earthjustice, called the plan “business as usual” for the rental.
“The Biden administration had the opportunity to meet the climate moment and end new offshore oil leases in the five-year Interior program,” Caputo said in a statement. “Instead, his proposal to serve a bunch of new offshore oil lease sales is a failure of climate leadership and a breach of their climate promises.”
Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said expanding offshore drilling puts coastal environments at risk of “catastrophic eruptions and continued damage”.
“Oil and gas companies already lease enough gulf to cover half the state of South Carolina. That’s a lot, according to the industry itself, to produce for another decade or more,” Bapna said in a statement. “It’s time to invest in cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.”
The Gulf is on track for zero lease sales in 2022 after the Home Office canceled two planned sales in May.