As the Biden administration pushes forward with plans to expand offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, officials have argued that alarming research presented in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report isn’t sufficient to pause or reassess drilling plans.
As first reported by The Daily Poster, the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) wrote in a recent document that the IPCC report “does not present sufficient cause” for the agency to take a second look at the administration’s plan to continue issuing leases for drilling.
The Bureau instead opens the door to future fossil fuel development projects. “The report, as well as additional analysis of climate change, may be a significant consideration in the Department’s decisions regarding oil and gas leasing programs in the future,” officials wrote.
Climate advocates were frustrated with the agency’s callous regard toward the IPCC report and the decision to march ahead with the leasing.“The honeymoon’s over,” between climate groups and the Biden administration, Friends of the Earth deputy legal director Hallie Templeton told The Daily Poster. “It’s now September, they’ve been in office for eight months. It’s time for them to show that they have priorities and are meaningfully going to move in the right direction.”
In the BOEM’s document, the administration argues that officials must comply with a court order that requires them to lease about 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel projects.The court order was a product of a lawsuit by states that are led by fossil fuel-funded Republicans; earlier this year, they sued the administration over an order that would have blocked the sale.
Climate advocates argue that the Biden administration has the power to decide whether or not to hold land sales for drilling. Earthjustice, on behalf of Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, Healthy Gulf and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit at the end of August arguing that given the urgency of the climate crisis, the lease sale cannot go forward.
“This lease sale is deeply disappointing. The Biden administration has folded to the oil industry based on its campaign of disinformation and political pressure, ignoring the worsening climate emergency we face,” said Brettny Hardy, an Earthjustice attorney. “Our planet cannot handle more stress from oil and gas production and yet the Biden administration is plowing ahead with a lease sale that will have impacts for decades into the future.”
Since Hurricane Ida slammed Louisiana and swept through the country to New York, causing floods and devastation along the way, President Biden has been touring areas hard-hit by the climate crisis. Climate researchers say that Ida was fueled largely by the climate crisis and rapidly rising water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy, and the threat is here,” Biden said while on tour earlier this month. “We can stop it from getting worse.”
Climate advocates say that Biden has thus far been all talk on climate, without the policy proposals or pressure on Congress to show for it. As one of his first actions in office, Biden signed an order to stop oil and gas leasing on federal lands — a move that was lauded by climate advocates.
But since then, Biden has become softer on the chief architects of the climate crisis. “[Biden] can use his powers to stop supercharging the climate crisis with drilling, fracking, and disastrous projects like Line 3, or he can just keep repeating talking points, approving fossil fuel development, and listening to Joe Manchin, which makes him nothing more than a disaster tourist,” Kassie Siegel, Climate Law Institute director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Rolling Stone.
Just affirming the reality of the climate crisis isn’t enough, say climate advocates, who liken major policies that sideline the crisis to climate denial. In negotiations for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, Biden allowed conservative Democrats and Republicans to carve climate provisions out of the bill nearly entirely; and he has done little to try to whip people like Senator Manchin into shape on major roadblocks to climate action like the filibuster.
The IPCC report, released last month, warned of increasingly dire consequences if the world continues on its current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions. Other global energy bodies have warned that the world must stop pursuing new fossil fuel projects if we are to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.