U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, 1 July, 2022, announced a plan for leasing offshore oil and gas drilling sites over the next five years, which was immediately met with criticism from both supporters of expanding domestic production and environmental groups.
The plan calls for leasing up to 11 sites for drilling between 2023 and 2028. All but one of the sites would be in the Gulf of Mexico, with the other proposed site in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. That is a sharp reduction from the Trump administration’s now-nixed plans for 47 lease-sites over several more regions – including Atlantic and Pacific offshore sites.
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement the plan must still go through a public comment phase and that moving toward “a clean energy economy” remains a priority for the White House.
“The proposed plan puts forward several options from no lease sales up to 11 lease sales over the next five years,” Haaland said.
Despite the possibility that no sites may end up getting leased, U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California) said in a statement the administration’s plan “is still a step in the wrong direction,” especially in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that diminished the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate power plants that run on fossil fuels.
“Offshore drilling poses unacceptable risks, and the science and public opinion are clear: we should not put our oceans and fisheries, coastal communities, economies, and planet at risk just to enrich the fossil fuel industry,” said Huffman, who serves as the chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife.
Environmental group Oceana tweeted Friday that Biden “promised” no new leases and urged people to tell the administration to live up to that commitment.
While environmental advocates ripped the plan for the possibility of leases, a key Louisiana lawmaker ripped the administration for not seeking more leases.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R-Louisiana) said the move means the U.S. will have to rely on more foreign gas as a result. In addition, Graves said the move will also hurt Louisiana’s resiliency efforts since the state constitution directs all revenues from offshore energy production to protect the state from hurricanes and floods.
“Without the ‘plan’ or lease sales, our state will have deficient hurricane, flood, and coastal protection investments before the next storm and energy costs will continue to rise,” Graves said. “The Biden administration is telling the people of [Louisiana] that they aren’t worth protecting or a priority. Folks in south Louisiana already can’t afford everyday costs due to Biden administration policies, and the price we will pay to pick up the pieces after the next storm will be salt in the wound.”
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