Biden cancels offshore oil lease sales in Gulf Coast, Alaska

May 11, 2022, 8:50 PM | Updated: May 12, 2022, 3:24 pm
FILE - An oil drilling rig is pictured at sunset, Monday, March 7, 2022, in El Reno, Okla. A federa...

FILE - An oil drilling rig is pictured at sunset, Monday, March 7, 2022, in El Reno, Okla. A federal appeals court in New Orleans hears arguments Tuesday, May 10, 2022, about whether President Joe Biden legally suspended new oil and gas lease sales because of climate change worries. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is canceling three oil and gas lease sales scheduled in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, removing millions of acres from possible drilling as U.S. gas prices reach record highs.

The Interior Department announced the decision Wednesday night, citing a lack of industry interest in drilling off the Alaska coast and “conflicting court rulings” that have complicated drilling efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, where the bulk of U.S. offshore drilling takes place,

The decision likely means the Biden administration will not hold a lease sale for offshore drilling this year and comes as Interior appears set to let a mandatory five-year plan for offshore drilling expire next month.

“Unfortunately, this is becoming a pattern — the administration talks about the need for more supply and acts to restrict it,” said Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, the top lobbying group for the oil and gas industry.

“As geopolitical volatility and global energy prices continue to rise, we again urge the administration to end the uncertainty and immediately act on a new five-year program for federal offshore leasing,” he said.

The lease cancellations come as gas prices have surged to a record $4.40 a gallon amid the war in Ukraine and other disruptions that have pushed prices $1.40 a gallon higher than a year ago. Consumer prices jumped 8.3% last month from a year ago, the government said Wednesday.

A federal appeals court in New Orleans, meanwhile, is considering a challenge to a moratorium on new federal leasing that Biden imposed soon after taking office in January 2021. Biden said the administration needed to consider the effect of new drilling on climate change and conduct proper environmental reviews.

Louisiana and 12 other states challenged Biden’s order, saying laws passed in response to the 1970s oil crisis require lease sales on federal lands and waters.

The Biden administration failed to “grapple with prior analyses” of the planned sales to give a valid reason for postponing or canceling them, Louisiana Deputy Solicitor General Joseph Scott St. John told a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel this week.

The three-judge panel did not indicate when they will rule.

Environmental groups hailed the latest lease cancellation, saying the administration needs to do more to curb greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels that are driving climate change.

“To save imperiled marine life and protect coastal communities and our climate from pollution, we need to end new leasing and phase out existing drilling,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group.

Republicans denounced the decision as harmful to consumers and U.S. national security.

The Interior Department’s decision “approaches levels of irresponsibility and reckless stupidity never seen before,” said Rep. Garret Graves, R-La. “We are paying record prices for gasoline and to heat and cool our homes. Rather than using American energy sources to help solve the problem and lower prices, the Biden administration continues to carry out policies that benefit” Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and other countries, Graves said.

“New leasing will not lower current gas prices,” countered Dustin Renaud, a spokesman for the environmental coalition Healthy Gulf. It takes several years for new leases to begin producing oil, he noted, adding that the industry “is already sitting on over 8 million acres of unused offshore leases.”

The state challenge to Biden’s leasing order has not yet gone to trial, but a federal judge blocked the order in a preliminary injunction last year, writing that since federal law does not state the president can suspend oil lease sales, only Congress can do so.

After U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty ruled for the states, the Interior Department held an offshore lease sale last fall, which a federal judge in Washington, D.C. later blocked.

The administration has appealed Doughty’s ruling, but has scheduled onshore lease sales next month in eight mostly Western states. However, the administration scaled back the amount of land offered for drilling and raised royalty rates by 50%.

Biden has come under pressure to increase U.S. crude production as fuel prices spike because of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The United States and other nations have banned imports of Russian oil, driving up prices worldwide.

Biden also faces pressure from Democrats and environmental groups urging him to do more to combat climate change, even as his legislative proposals on climate and clean energy remain stalled in a sharply divided Congress.

Interior cannot conduct new offshore oil and gas lease sales until it has completed a required five-year plan. The current plan expires June 30, and administration officials have not said when or if a replacement will be released.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said last month that the oil and gas industry is “set” with the amount of drilling permits at its disposal. She defended Biden administration actions to scale down federal leasing, saying that industry has about 9,000 permits that have been approved but are not being used.

“The industry is free to use these permits in a way they see fit. They just haven’t acted on those,” Haaland told a House committee last week.

Oil companies say they have increased production as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, but they have been reluctant to ramp up production further, citing a shortage of workers and restraints from investors wary that today’s high prices won’t last. Decisions by the OPEC+ oil cartel, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, to only modestly increase supplies to the world market have also kept prices high.

Major oil companies reported surging profits in the first quarter and are sending tens of billions of dollars in dividends to shareholders, along with stock buybacks that have sharply increased the value of investor holdings.

Democrats accuse the industry of “price gouging” and have vowed to bring legislation cracking down on price manipulation to votes in the House and Senate. A bid to impose a “windfall profits” tax on oil producers has generated little support in Congress.

___

Associated Press writer Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

GOP candidate apologizes after antisemitic post surfaces

A GOP candidate for the Washington Legislature has acknowledged that a post he put on social media in 2020 is antisemitic.
8 hours ago
FILE - The electric Endurance pick-up truck is displayed at Lordstown Motors Corporation, in Lordst...
Associated Press

Lordstown Motors starts making electric trucks at Ohio plant

LORDSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — Commercial electric vehicle startup Lordstown Motors says it has slowly started production of its first model, the Endurance pickup. The struggling company says it has built two pickups, with a third to be finished shortly. It plans to ramp up production depending on quality and parts availability, it said in a […]
1 day ago
Models wear creations for the Chloe ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2023 fashion collection presented T...
Associated Press

Chloe goes for pared-down 1970s, riffing on disco in Paris

PARIS (AP) — Chloe — the house that invented ready-to-wear — got almost ready-to-dance at Thursday’s installment of Paris Fashion Week as designer Gabriela Hearst developed disco fever, cracking open strobe lighting, colored 1970s disc motifs and retro hair. Here are some highlights of spring-summer 2023 collections: CHLOE’S PARED DOWN DISCO Katie Holmes and other […]
1 day ago
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks at a Google Cloud event in Athens on Thursday, Sept...
Associated Press

Google promises Greece 20K jobs with cloud expansion

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Google announced plans Thursday to expand its cloud services infrastructure to Greece, promising to create nearly 20,000 jobs through direct investment and partnerships by the end of the decade. The move follows plans by Microsoft, announced two years ago, to invest $1 billion to create data centers near Athens, as well […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

US woman appears via videolink in UK in fatal accident case

LONDON (AP) — An American woman who fled the U.K. claiming diplomatic immunity after she was involved in a fatal traffic accident has appeared in a British court via videolink — an apparent breakthrough in the long-deadlocked case. Anne Sacoolas, 45, was accompanied by her lawyer during the 6-minute hearing Thursday at Westminster Magistrates Court […]
1 day ago
FILE - Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, arrives to watch Amy Coney B...
Associated Press

Virginia Thomas appears for interview with Jan. 6 panel

WASHINGTON (AP) — Conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, appeared on Thursday for a voluntary interview with the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. The committee has for months sought an interview with Thomas in an effort to know more about her role in trying to help […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Biden cancels offshore oil lease sales in Gulf Coast, Alaska