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Biden Proposes to Block Offshore Drilling in Atlantic, Pacific Oceans, Allow Some in Gulf of Mexico

A supply boat, lower left, passes an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico. File Photo by A.J. Sisco/UPI
A supply boat, lower left, passes an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico. File Photo by A.J. Sisco/UPI

The Biden administration has proposed blocking all new drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but allowing some drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in a five-year development plan.

The plan released on Friday proposed no more than 10 potential lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, an option for one potential lease sale in the northern portion of the Cook Inlet of Alaska, and no lease sales for the Atlantic or Pacific planning areas over the 2023-2028 period.

It is not a final determination of what sales will be included, but any area or sale not included in the proposal will be off-limits during the five-year period, the Department of Interior’s Board of Ocean Energy Management noted.

The proposal will be published in the federal register later this month when it will be open for a 90-day public comment period.

The board will also host four virtual meetings in August for public input, including on Aug. 23, Aug. 25, Aug. 29, and Aug. 31, with exact times and registration to be provided at a later date.

During a legislative session earlier this year, Democrats had urged President Joe Biden to do more to stop offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The plea followed his administration breaking his campaign promise to ban new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and waters in November by approving new oil drilling leases on 1.7 million acres of federal land in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Democrats had argued that the approval of the lease in November ran counter to his administration’s goal to reach a net-zero emissions economy no later than 2050 and a 50% to 52% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in an effort to control global warming.

The Biden administration had been under pressure from Republican-leaning states, including 14 states that sued his administration for suspending the leasing of new oil and gas drilling on federal lands, arguing it drove up energy costs.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, federal oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico produce about 20% of the carbon pollution from Department of Interior-managed public lands and waters

The Biden administration had paused oil and gas leases in February amid a fight with Republican states over the use of carbon cost metric that put a high cost on emissions damage, but resumed them a few months ago under pressure to lower energy costs.

When the Department of Interior resumed the leases, it also announced an accompanying increase in the royalty rate that companies pay to the government.

Still, environmental groups see the latest proposal as yet another blow.

“The Biden administration had an opportunity to meet the moment on climate and end new offshore oil leasing in Interior’s five-year program,” Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation at Earthjustice said in a statement.

“This proposal is business as usual on federal offshore oil leasing.”

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