Biden Admin Reduces Oil Lease Area To Protect Whales

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The Biden administration issued a final notice Wednesday for the lease of 67 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for offshore energy activity, a figure which represents a 6.4 million acre reduction from the initial proposal, Bloomberg News reported.

The 6.4 million acre reduction amounts to 9% of the initially proposed lease area from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), according to Bloomberg. The reduction follows the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) July decision to settle with environmentalist groups and move to introduce protections for the Rice’s whale species in a nearly 11 million acre swath of the Gulf.

“While the Department of the Interior announced a much-needed offshore lease sale today, the Biden administration continues to throw up roadblock after roadblock to American energy production, prioritizing their campaign promise to stop American oil and natural gas development in federal waters over their duty to meet Americans’ energy needs,” American Petroleum Institute (API) Vice President of Upstream Policy Holly Hopkins said of the final lease notice. “With this announcement, the administration is removing approximately 6 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico and adding new and unjustified restrictions on oil and gas vessels operating in this area, amounting to a lease sale in name only.” (RELATED: Biden Admin Proposes New Rule To Jack Up Prices For Oil And Gas Leases)

The lease is set to go to auction on Sept. 27 and stands as the last scheduled offshore oil lease scheduled by the federal government, according to Bloomberg. The Biden administration has faced criticism from industry experts and groups for slow-walking its long-term planning for offshore leases, but language in the Inflation Reduction Act mandated that DOI hold this particular sale.

The administration has not finalized a new five-year plan for offshore leasing, as required by law, after the old plan expired in June, according to Bloomberg. The Biden administration’s lack of action on offshore leasing is “eroding long term confidence and certainty in the Gulf of Mexico,” Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), said of the final notice.

Pursuant to the settlement with the environmentalist groups, federal agencies have suggested constraints for offshore oil and gas vessel activity in the nearly 11 million acre zone of the Gulf. While the measures, which include restrictions on nighttime vessel transit and minimum distancing guidelines, are nominally voluntary, some industry groups expect those suggestions to eventually become finalized requirements.

The settlement could actually end up leading to increased emissions and pose new safety risks for vessels impacted by the protections for the Rice’s whale species, NOIA previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Beyond the safety and emissions issues, the suggested measures and reduced lease area also threaten to decrease American energy productivity at a time when international oil prices are rising and per-gallon prices at the pump for Americans are quietly approaching $4.

The Gulf of Mexico provided about 15% of U.S. crude oil production in 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The White House and DOI did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect a revised statement from API.

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