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Oil industry group files legal challenge against Biden administration’s Gulf leasing plan

The biggest fossil fuel industry trade group on Monday announced a legal challenge against the Biden administration’s five-year plan for oil and gas leasing.

In its petition filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the American Petroleum Institute (API) argues the 2024-2029 Gulf of Mexico leasing plan issued by the Biden administration “limit[s] access” to energy, despite federal law requiring the development of a five-year plan that “best meets” American energy needs.

The trade group specifically points to the five-year program calling for a maximum of three lease sales between 2025 and 2029, with 2024 set to be the first year in nearly 50 years without an offshore lease sale.

“Demand for affordable, reliable energy is only growing, yet this administration has used every tool at its disposal to restrict access to vast energy resources in federal waters,” Ryan Meyers, API senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

“In issuing a five-year program with the fewest lease sales in history, the administration is limiting access in a region responsible for generating among the lowest carbon-intensive barrels in the world, putting American consumers at greater risk of relying on foreign sources for our future energy needs,” Meyers added.

The Inflation Reduction Act requires the administration to lease at least 60 million acres for offshore gas and oil development on top of its offshore wind leases.

The API has been a frequent critic of the Biden administration’s energy policies, even as U.S. oil development has hit historic highs. The language of the complaint echoes the group’s initial reaction to the release of the five-year plan in December, when vice president of upstream policy Holly Hopkins said it “could threaten to increase reliance on foreign energy sources.”

However, the administration’s oil and gas development policies have also sparked criticism from environmental advocates for allowing continued leasing in the Gulf.

“The footprint of offshore drilling was not expanded, but the dangerous cycle of drilling and spilling must end,” Beth Lowell, Oceana’s vice president for the United States, said when the plan was released.

The Hill has reached out to the Interior Department for comment.

The conservationist group Earthjustice, meanwhile, has filed a complaint alleging the plan fails to address environmental concerns.

“Fossil fuel development is untenable if we want a livable future,” Earthjustice attorney Brettny Hardy said in a statement.

“The oil and gas industry is already sitting on nine million acres of undeveloped leases. They certainly are not entitled to more. Although we acknowledge the government’s focus on climate impacts with the release of this five-year offshore leasing plan, we are taking legal action today because we are concerned about how it will jeopardize the health of overburdened communities.”

Updated at 6:33 p.m. ET

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