Major players in the oil and gas industry are suing the US government for protecting 6 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico from an upcoming auction of drilling rights on federally owned land.
The American Petroleum Institute (API)—a trade group representing domestic oil and natural gas firms—was joined by Chevron and the state of Louisiana in accusing the White House of illegally withholding the full amount of land required to be auctioned off by a provision in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.
“Despite Congress’ clear intention in the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration has announced a ‘lease sale in name only’ that removes approximately 6 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico from the sale,” API lawyer Ryan Meyers said in a press release.
The dispute stems from a 2020 agreement between environmentalist groups and the US Department of Interior that the government would withdraw the area from an upcoming sale in order to protect the Rice’s whale, one of the most endangered whales in the world.
Now, with the auction scheduled to take place on Sept. 27, the oil industry is objecting to the decision to take 6 million acres off the table. (Another 67 million acres of government land remain available for lease.)
The API also objects to a provision in the upcoming leasing agreement that gives operators of oil and natural gas vessels new instructions for how to look out for the Rice’s whale. The group alleges that this sets a double standard for industry-specific vessels, with the rules not applying to other types of boats.
On its website, the Marine Mammal Commission specifically identifies “oil and gas-related activities” as a major threat to the Rice’s Whale. The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill harmed or killed as many as 25,900 marine mammals, including endangered whales. Department of the Interior officials were not immediately available for comment.