A federal appeals court has formally ended an environmental legal challenge to a Gulf of Mexico oil and gas lease sale that had been blocked by a district judge but was revived by the Inflation Reduction Act last year.
After President Joe Biden paused new oil and gas leasing in public spaces in 2021, a coalition of attorneys general sued him, including Louisiana’s Jeff Landry. That suit paved the way for a November 2021 lease sale that netted more than $189 million.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras of Washington threw out that sale, saying it didn’t properly account for potential greenhouse gas emissions.
However, the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022 put the sale back on the books and forced the Biden administration to host two lease sales in 2023. The lease sales allow oil and gas companies to bid for drilling space on federal land and in federal waters.
Environmental groups challenged that move in court, arguing the Inflation Reduction Act still gave the Department of the Interior some wiggle room to reject bids submitted for the November 2021 lease sale should the sale be invalidated in court.
In a ruling released Friday, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit disagreed and vacated Contreras’ ruling as moot.
“We’re disappointed by today’s order because Gulf Lease Sale 257 violated the National Environmental Policy Act and should never have happened in the first place,” Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda said in a statement. “This massive industry handout will take a significant toll on Gulf communities and ecosystems and make addressing the climate crisis increasingly challenging.”