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News Release

Indigenous Environmental Network

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia vacated Lease Sale 257, spanning more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, on Thursday, ruling that the Biden administration failed to properly consider the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the lease sale under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). This is a major victory for frontline, Black, and Indigenous organizers of the global majority in the Gulf and across the country that have fought for climate considerations to be applied to all potential fossil fuel infrastructure and development.

“This court has it exactly right: every politician, judge, and decisionmaker in the country must consider the devastating damage that fossil fuel pollution does to our communities, our health and our climate before they rubber stamp a new pipeline, oil and gas lease, refinery, or chemical facility. If they did, every one of these projects would be rejected,” John Beard, Founder, Chairman and CEO of the Port Arthur Community Action Network and member of the Build Back Fossil Free Coalition. “Instead of siding with the oil billionaires who will appeal this decision, President Biden should learn a lesson from this case, not appeal the court’s ruling, and listen to the Black leaders, Indigenous leaders, environmental justice advocates, and climate activists urging him to reject the dangerous fossil fuel projects currently under federal review, while rapidly and equitably deploying clean energy with a stroke of his pen.” 

Lease Sale 257, held in November 2021, was the largest lease sale in U.S. history. The Biden administration moved forward with the sale despite not being legally bound to do so, as a recently unveiled memo from the Department of Justice revealed. The court confirmed the Biden administration had the discretion to cancel the sale on grounds that it would be too harmful to the environment. By moving forward with the sale, the administration ignored the calls of Gulf communities and undermined President Biden’s own commitment to reduce carbon pollution and end offshore drilling. Since then, the administration has come under heavy scrutiny, as Food & Water Watch and youth climate organizations filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in December 2021 seeking communications related to the lease sale. 

“I’m thrilled the court saw through the Biden administration’s horribly reckless decision to hold the largest oil lease sale in U.S. history without carefully studying the risks,” said Kristen Monsell, Oceans Legal Director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For the sake of our climate and frontline communities, the Biden administration must end new leasing and phase out existing drilling. Anything less would be a gross failure of climate leadership.”

This is one of many instances in which the administration’s actions have failed to meet the President’s own commitments to climate action, Indigenous communities, and environmental justice. The administration failed to stop major projects like the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, defended oil drilling in the Arctic, promoted fossil fuel exports, and allowed drilling, mining and fracking to continue on Native and public lands. New research from the Center for Biological Diversity found that the Biden administration has approved 900 more permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands than the Trump administration did in its first year. 

“Our oceans are paramount to the health of the planet and stopping these offshore leases will decrease the carbon emissions we generate as a nation and help mitigate the chaos we are seeing from climate change. This is a win for the Black, Indigenous and communities of the global majority who have been holding the line, fighting for our government to address our addiction to fossil fuels regardless of party lines. Why do we, the people, have to sue our government to protect the health and wellbeing of our communities? We will continue to be radical and brave, we will continue to hold Biden's administration accountable to meet this moment with the urgency it deserves.” said Joye Braun, Indigenous Environmental Network.

Analysis from Oil Change International indicates approval of the 20 major fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are currently under federal review by the Biden administration would generate 403 million metric tons of climate-disrupting greenhouse gas emissions annually. Combined with the emissions generated by three pipelines already approved by the administration, that total would increase to 750 million metric tons per year — the average annual emissions equivalent of building 404 new U.S. coal-fired power plants. Currently, there are 294 coal plants operating in the continental United States.

Climate action is not just supported by the Build Back Fossil Free coalition and backed by the federal courts in this critically important case — it is broadly supported by the public, with new polling showing climate is the issue on which Democrats have the largest advantage over Republicans.

About Indigenous Environmental Network

Established in 1990, the Indigenous Environmental Network is an international environmental justice nonprofit that works with tribal grassroots organizations to build the capacity of Indigenous communities. Indigenous Environmental Network’s activities include empowering Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, the health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities.

Learn more here: ienearth.org.

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