Senate, House Lawmakers Support Lawsuit Challenging Biden Administration Changes to Sept. 27 Lease Sale

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today reported that she has signed an amicus brief in a federal case that challenges the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) decision to alter the terms of “Lease Sale 261” in the Gulf of Mexico, which is scheduled for Sept. 27.

The congressional amicus brief asserts that the BOEM action undermines the separation of powers by not faithfully executing laws enacted by the legislative branch regarding the offshore lease sale.  The brief, signed by 10 members of Congress, supports a suit filed by the State of Louisiana and others seeking a preliminary injunction on the BOEM.

“The Biden administration tries to talk a good game about domestic energy production, but the details tell a different story.  The limitations placed on Lease Sale 261 again show us the depth of the administration’s hostility toward U.S. oil and gas production.  Specifically, it is going out of its way to make production as difficult and unpalatable as possible for producers,” Hyde-Smith said.  “I hope the District Court will determine the BOEM must follow the letter of the law, as passed by Congress.”

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) led the amicus brief, which was also signed by U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), and U.S. Representatives Jerry Carl (R-Ala.), Garret Graves (R-La.), Wesley Hunt (R-Texas), August Pfluger (R-Texas), and Pete Stauber (R-Minn.).

Read the full amicus brief here

Background Information 

  • The Biden administration recently entered into a closed-door settlement agreement with the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Turtle Island Restoration Network.  As part of that agreement, the administration is now voluntarily removing 6 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico from potential oil and gas production. 
  • The BOEM also wants to impose a 10-knot speed limit and restrict nighttime transit for oil and gas vessels throughout the area, significantly disrupting companies’ ability to drill and produce oil and gas in the Gulf.  The decision would effectively deter oil and gas companies from being able to use their vessels properly and efficiently in the Gulf of Mexico, making production unsafe and nearly impossible.
  • The agreement is based on the idea that ship traffic in the central and western Gulf of Mexico could disturb the habitat of the Rice’s whale.  This is based on a singular study with a flawed methodology, and federal statutes and regulations require much more evidence before such a sweeping decision is handed down.  BOEM is also unilaterally imposing these restrictions on only oil and natural gas companies, which make up a small portion of the overall ship traffic in the area.
  • The restrictions imposed by this agreement would result in reduced bidding in the next offshore lease sale, reduced investment in the region, fewer jobs, and higher prices for all Americans. Fifteen percent of the country’s crude oil is produced from Gulf of Mexico, which will be stifled due to the Biden administration’s shortsighted decisions.”

“The Bureau does not have authority to second-guess the balance that Congress chose.  But the challenged provisions do just that,” the lawmakers wrote in their brief.  “The acreage-withdrawal removes millions of acres from sale, and the vessel restrictions add a last-minute stipulation.  Neither term is ‘in accordance with’ the 2017 Record of Decision.  Congress was aware of the potential tradeoffs between efficiency and stewardship when it enacted the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act].  Yet Congress deemed the 2017 Record of Decision to strike a proper balance between those interests.  The Bureau must honor that choice.”