When President Joe Biden spoke about fossil fuels during a Democratic presidential debate in March 2020, he promised to “take on the fossil fuel industry” and rapidly transition the nation away from planet-warming fossil fuels.

“No more subsidies for [the] fossil fuel industry,” Biden said. “No more drilling on federal lands. Drilling, both onshore and offshore is prohibited. There is no way for the oil industry, anywhere, to continue drilling. Ends.”

Biden breaks environmental rules, say environmentalists pledgeNow, the Administration is preparing to host the biggest offshore oil-and gas lease sale in American history on Nov. 17.

This sale follows COP26 in Scotland where UN climate negotiations are taking place. Diplomats appear to be on track for a deal which falls short of what scientists believe is required to prevent catastrophic global warming. The Department of the Interior will offer up more than 80 million acres — an area larger than the state of New Mexico — of the Gulf of Mexico for drilling. It is bigger than any lease sale conducted under President Donald Trump’s fossil-fuel-friendly administration, and Interior estimatesIt will allow for the additional production of 1.1 billion barrels oil and 4.4 trillion cubic yards of natural gas in the next few decades.

After the Louisiana decision in June by Trump’s federal judge, the administration claims its hands are tied to strike down Biden’s executive order temporarily pausing new oil and gas leases across federal lands and waters.

“The administration has made clear that it disagrees with the ruling and the Department of Justice has appealed it, but the government must comply with it in the meantime,” White House spokesman Vedant Patel said in an email statement, noting that Interior previously canceled the pending lease sale.

An action brought against the government by fourteen Republican lawyers led to the injunction. The judge’s opinion relied in part on a study of the leasing pause’s potential economic impacts, which an industry trade group helped shape and that multiple independent researchers dismissed.

Legal experts HuffPost interviewed said Biden and his team have some avenues to scale back, delay or cancel the sale, but that they’d come with legal and political risks the administration may be unwilling to take.

In a mask like President Joe Biden, a climate activist takes part in a protest against using fossil fuels near the U.N. COP26 venue. Climate Summit will be held in Glasgow (Scotland) on Friday.
Source: Associated Press

Sam Kalen, a natural resources law professor at the University of Wyoming, called the Louisiana judge’s ruling as it pertains to offshore leasing “quite questionable.” If a non-governmental organization were to file a complaint seeking to enjoin the upcoming Gulf sale on legitimate grounds — for example, a faulty environmental analysis — then the administration could opt to postpone the auction pending a resolution in court, he said.

Drew Caputo, an attorney with environmental group Earthjustice, said the Biden administration could have gone further than simply appealing the judge’s ruling by requesting the appeals court stay, or suspend, the order while the administration argues its case in court.

Caputo stated, “It could have declared this sale illegal under National Environmental Policy Act due its future impacts on climate” or used the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act authority to remove large areas offshore from future leasing. Much like what Obama did with Arctic waters and Atlantic waters in 2016.

“I’m not saying there wouldn’t be legal and political consequences of taking any of these steps. I assume that the industry and their political allies would sue instantly,” Caputo said. “But we have an unbroken, scientific consensus that we are out of time to take action to deal with climate change. It is impossible for the U.S. to meet its climate commitments if it continues operating the program in business as usual, considering that 25% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions comes from federal oil and gas. And that’s what proceeding with this lease sale does.”

Earthjustice suedIn September, the administration tried to block the Gulf Lease Sale.

In the following: letter last week, Earthjustice and more than 250 other organizations called on Biden to cancel the Gulf auction amid what Biden himself has warned is a “code red” moment on climate.

Going through with it, the groups said, would “make a mockery” of his own commitments on a global stage at the COP26 climate conference this month.

“There is still time to keep your promise to end new leases on public lands and waters and address environmental racism,” reads the letter, spearheaded by environmental organization Friends of the Earth. “Please utilize your existing authority and defer Lease Sale 257 to reckon with the latest evidence and properly estimate and acknowledge the full range of impacts from lease sales in this region.”

Interior also plans to hold onshore oil-and gas auctions in the Western States early next year. The auctions will cover approximately 700,000. acres across multiple Western states including Wyoming, Colorado and Colorado. However, Interior has been criticized by the Bureau of Land Management for not allowing this. announced it will for the first time begin analyzing greenhouse gas emissions and weighing the climate impacts of proposed leases — a move that could ultimately result in leases being scaled back or canceled.

Advocates are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. disconnect between Biden’s words and actions on climate.

It is possible to purchase a keynote speech at the U.N. climate summit, Biden described the next 10 years as “a decisive decade” and assured world leaders that the U.S. will once again lead the global effort to confront the climate threat. But with gasoline prices soaring, the administration has asked foreign nations to boost fossil fuel production — a move that Biden acknowledged “​​seems like an irony.”

“It does, on the surface, seem inconsistent,” Biden said at the Group of 20 summit on Oct. 31 before heading to COP26. “But it’s not at all inconsistent in that no one has anticipated that this year we’d be in a position — or even next year — that we’re not going to use any more oil or gas; that we’re not going to be engaged in any fossil fuels.”

John Kerry, the Biden administration’s special climate envoy and lead COP26 negotiator, echoed that position.

“If [Biden] were asking them to boost their production over five years, I’d quit,” Kerry said at the G20 summit. “But he’s not. He’s asking them to boost production in this immediate moment.”

The future sale is yet to generate any interest. However, any lease at home will almost certainly lock in domestic production for many years. Acres sold during next week’s Gulf auction, for example, likely wouldn’t be developed for five or 10 years.

“Claiming that we’re only taking short term action to foster oil and gas production while we make the transition on the one hand, and on the other hand selling a carbon bomb of a lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico that can’t go to production for close to 10 years — there’s no way to square that circle,” Caputo said. “It really points out the inconsistency between the federal oil and gas program today and the climate needs of America and the world.”

A gas flare from the Shell Chemical LP petroleum refinery illuminates the sky in Norco, Louisiana.
An oil refinery called Shell Chemical LP uses a flare to illuminate the skies in Norco, Louisiana.
Drew Angerer via Getty Images

The Obama administration is aiming to cut U.S. emissions of carbon by at least half of 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero emission goals by the middle century. Congress is currently negotiating the president’s Build Back Better plan, which includes an historic $555 billion in climate spending.

Mark Squillace, a professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado Boulder, said he’s sympathetic to the concerns of environmentalists who want to see the Biden administration stop fossil fuel development on public lands and waters. However, in light the Louisiana court’s ruling, Squillace said there needs to be more emphasis on controlling development, on both federal and private, as well as ensuring future drilling and mining are environmentally sustainable.

“Just because you’re stopping leasing on federal land doesn’t mean you’re stopping development on federal land, because so much land has already been leased,” Squillace said. “I think there needs to be a more holistic policy with respect to how oil and gas development occurs throughout the country.”

This industry is thriving stockpiledThere are enough federal permits and leases to allow for drilling on public land and water for many decades. Soon after Biden assumed office, the Interior Department started a review to the federal oil and natural gas leasing program. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who has described the program as “fundamentally broken,” said in May that the public could expect an interim report to come out this summer. The report remains confidential despite being published months ago.

“Even without the report, we know what needs to happen,” she told reporters earlier this month, according to E&E News. “We are doing whatever we can at the department to ensure we are analyzing these leases with climate change as a backdrop. We need to absolutely consider climate change, we need to consider the social cost of carbon in the things that we do.”

If the administration follows through with the Gulf lease — there is no indication that it won’t — it is certain to face heavy backlash from environmental and climate advocates.

“When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging,” Caputo said. “We’re in a fossil fuel leasing hole, so the first thing to do is stop new leasing.”

Source: HuffPost.com.

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