Interior Nixes Oil and Gas Lease Sales in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico

In a great victory for communities in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, the Ministry of the Interior canceled three sales of oil and gas concessions off the coast of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico. The leases would have opened up more than one million acres for development in vibrant ocean ecosystems that are vital to threatened and endangered species, fishers, indigenous peoples and many others.

This comes at a time when the industry is opportunistically redoubling its efforts to expand offshore leasing, and taking advantage and defrauding the public in response to the global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One of the industry’s most misleading claims is that expanding leasing will solve the current spike in gasoline prices. It’s crazy. We don’t need more leasing — the industry is sitting on 11 million acres of ocean already leased for drilling and uses less than a quarter – and new leases wouldn’t yield more supply for at least a decade, which isn’t helping consumers at the pumps this year.

Moving the dirty energy away from within is a key step; second, it should not commit to any new offshore leases and invest in a clean energy future. Existing production allows us to meet our energy needs for the next decade. More drilling today will not make gas cheaper for consumers, while costing us billions of dollars in damage from climate change and public health impacts.

The Cook Inlet and Gulf Leases

Last year, the NRDC, with its partners, formally opposed the lease sale was to take place in Cook Inlet, Alaska, and asked Interior to cancel the sale. Further development in the region would have affected species like the endangered beluga whale, as well as indigenous communities and fishermen who depend on a healthy ocean. Allowing this rental would also have increased greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate disasters, in a state already deeply affected by the climate crisis. Alaska is warming faster than any other state in the United States, experiencing extreme weather events. Its valuable activities, such as cod and salmon fishing, have been reduced by climate change. The environmental review for the sale of the lease was not strong enough. It has not sufficiently considered these and other effects of oil and gas development in the region, and the removal of the 258 lease sale is a smart move.

The NRDC has also opposite continued development in the Gulf of Mexico that unfairly harms the health of communities in the region and poses unacceptable risks to ocean ecosystems. After decades of offshore oil development, onshore refining and chemical manufacturing, the community health around the Gulf region is suffering. Critically Endangered People rice whale inhabits these waters, along with other vulnerable and protected species. The Gulf of Mexico is also known for a range of valuable commercial fisheries, from shrimp fishing in Bayou La Batre to a fantastic range of oysters and other seafood. The Gulf is still recovering from the BP oil spill disasterand the continued exploitation of offshore oil perpetuates the risk of a new crisis. It’s time to stop treating the Gulf of Mexico as a sacrifice zone for the country’s dependence on dirty and dangerous oil and gas, and to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

The DOI should not commit to any new leases

As my NRDC colleague Lauren Kubiak wrote, our existing oil reserves and oil and gas leases provide more than enough energy to meet our current energy needs. And, as our Senior Oceans Strategist Sarah Chasis and I wrote, the Home Office has ample power to shape the country’s offshore energy program to move away from fossil fuels and advance renewable energy sources.

We expect the Home Office to publish its five-year plan for offshore oil and gas development next month. It’s time for the United States to commit to no new offshore oil and gas leases and invest in the clean energy future we – and our planet – need.

Originally published on the NRDC Expert Blog. By Irene Gutierrez


 


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