WASHINGTON (CN) — The Biden administration on Friday approved three new oil and gas lease sales through 2029, a move officials touted as narrowly complying with congressional limits but which brought widespread bipartisan condemnation.
The Department of the Interior announced the leases for the Gulf of Mexico, dismissing proposed sales for Alaska and delaying any new oil lease sales until 2025. Sales have historically been scheduled several times a year.
“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to building a clean energy future that ensures America’s energy independence,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a press release. “The Proposed Final Program, which represents the smallest number of oil and gas lease sales in history, sets a course for the Department to support the growing offshore wind industry and protect against the potential for environmental damage and adverse impacts to coastal communities.”
In passing climate legislation last year, Congress tied the fate of offshore wind development to new oil leases. The law prohibits the Interior Department from allowing new offshore wind leasing unless the department offered at least 60 million acres for oil and gas in the previous year.
President Joe Biden is seeking to limit fossil fuel production and eliminate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but the Interior Department said three sales are the fewest it could approve under the law to continue expanding the offshore wind program through 2030.
The Interior Department said the Trump administration’s original proposal included 47 lease sales off all coastal areas. No five-year plan since 1992 has included fewer than 11 lease sales, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., criticized the plan for limiting domestic energy production.
“With the release of today’s five-year offshore leasing schedule, Biden is surrendering our nation’s energy independence,” he said in a statement. “America is one of the cleanest, most responsible, and most efficient producers of oil and natural gas in the world. It’s a disgrace that the Biden Administration refuses to acknowledge that simple truth.”
The League of Conservation Voters said the proposal was “disappointing” and “could lead to decades more fossil fuel dependency and climate pollution.”
“Our coastal communities deserve better than more offshore drilling,” the organization wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Oil Change International, which advocates for clean energy, also hammered the White House for the plan.
“Sacrificing frontline communities and millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas extraction is a gross denial of reality by Joe Biden in the face of climate catastrophe,” said Collin Rees, the organization’s United States program manager, in a statement. “A huge expansion of oil and gas production when scientists are clear that we must end fossil fuel expansion immediately is unacceptable.”
Friday’s announcement is officially the release of a draft environmental impact statement for the 2024-2029 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. It kicks off a 60-day waiting period before the plan can be formally approved.Follow @TheNolanStout
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