By Edward Helmore
Joe Biden’s administration on Friday unveiled a five-year offshore oil and gas drilling development plan that blocks all new drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans within US territorial waters while allowing some lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s south coast.
The plan, which has not been finalized, could allow up to 11 lease sales but gives the interior department the right to make none. It comes two days after the US supreme court curbed the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to respond to the climate crisis.
Environmental groups criticized the plan, and some expressed concern that the administration was backing away from the president’s “no more drilling” pledge during a March 2020 one-on-one debate with Bernie Sanders.
Biden at the time said, “No more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore – no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill – period.”
Environmental groups also argued that new leasing would impede the Biden administration’s goal to cut carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030 in an effort to keep global heating under the threshold of 1.5C (2.7F).
“President Biden campaigned on climate leadership, but he seems poised to let us down at the worst possible moment,” said Brady Bradshaw, senior oceans campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The reckless approval of yet more offshore drilling would mean more oil spills, more dead wildlife and more polluted communities. We need a five-year plan with no new leases.”
Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch said: “President Biden has called the climate crisis the existential threat of our time, but the administration continues to pursue policies that will only make it worse.”
On Friday, the interior secretary, Deb Haaland, said she and the president “had made clear our commitment to transition to a clean energy economy”. The department’s proposal, she said, was “an opportunity for the American people to consider and provide input on the future of offshore oil and gas leasing”.