A federal court struck down the Biden administration’s last-minute restrictions on an upcoming offshore oil and gas lease sale in a ruling late Thursday evening.
Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction request from plaintiffs — the State of Louisiana, industry association American Petroleum Institute (API) and oil companies Chevron and Shell — to block the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) restrictions on Lease Sale 261. The lease sale spanning millions of acres across the Gulf of Mexico is slated for next week.
Cain ruled the federal government must proceed with the lease sale by Sept. 30 under its original conditions. As a result of a July settlement with environmental groups, BOEM removed about six million acres from the sale and imposed various restrictions on oil and gas vessels associated with the leases auctioned to protect the Rice’s whale species found in parts of the Gulf of Mexico.
“The court observes that plaintiffs have demonstrated substantial potential costs resulting from the challenged provisions,” Cain wrote in his decision. “While the government defendants largely focus on the acreage withdrawal and dynamics of the sale itself, many of plaintiffs’ alleged hardships arise from the vessel restrictions.”