U.S. District Court judge revokes historic oil and gas leases in the Gulf

This could be the beginning of the end of offshore drilling

oil rig
Kate Griese

The Gulf of Mexico is a beautiful, majestic place full of colorful coral, thriving marine ecosystems, and beloved ocean critters. Manatees dwell in coastal coves, dolphins leap through the waves, and leatherback sea turtles swim through clear, blue water. It’s an ecosystem teeming with life.

All of this, and more, is at risk when we drill for oil and gas in our oceans. 

In November, the Biden administration held the largest oil and gas lease sale in history, putting 18 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico up for auction. That’s an area twice the size of Florida. Rightfully outraged at the climate implications from a sale of this size, a coalition of environmental groups sued the Biden administration to stop the lease sale.

On Jan. 28, the coalition’s work paid off when a U.S. District Court judge revoked the federal government’s November oil and gas lease sale. The ruling found that the negative impact the sold leases would have on the climate were not adequately addressed in the government’s environmental impact statement. 

Although this is a win for our oceans and something to celebrate, more action is still necessary. 

We have been saying for decades that offshore drilling is dirty, dangerous and doesn’t belong anywhere in our oceans. When we drill, we spill, and these oil spills destroy precious marine life, pollute coastal communities, and damage public health. On top of all of that, even when oil spills aren’t occurring, offshore oil and gas rigs are constantly producing climate-warming greenhouse gasses.

Offshore drilling is the source of so much climate-warming pollution that banning it in all federal waters would prevent more than 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions — that’s the equivalent of taking every car in the United States off the road for 15 years. 

What was always an unsustainable practice is now an unconscionable action. The Biden administration needs to recognize the importance of this ruling and focus on bringing about the end of offshore drilling. 

This can start by issuing no new leases in the Biden administration’s next five-year plan, which is a five-year schedule of proposed oil and gas lease sales in U.S. waters. President Biden has the opportunity to be a climate hero by issuing no new oil and gas leases in our beloved oceans.


Kate Griese