A US appeals court has given the Biden administration an extension until November 8 to implement an expanded sale of oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico. This decision is part of an ongoing legal battle over federal protection of an endangered whale species.
The New Orleans-based US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued the extension in response to a request from the US Department of the Interior. The department disagreed with a decision by District Judge James Cain, who ordered the government to hold an auction in late September that included 6 million more acres than originally planned.
The Department of the Interior argued that the short deadline imposed by the judge caused “chaos” and required many changes to comply with the order. The appeals court granted the request for more time to make the sale, but did not block the judge’s decision to protect the endangered whale.
The oil and gas industry welcomed Judge Cain’s order, as they had challenged an earlier decision by the Interior Department to curtail the auction. However, representatives from the Interior Department, environmental groups, the Louisiana attorney general’s office and the American Petroleum Institute did not immediately comment on the appeals court’s decision.
The Biden administration initially halted federal drilling auctions when President Joe Biden took office in 2021 as part of his climate change agenda. However, plans for a reduced lease sale ended in August after the Inflation Reduction Act mandated that the auction continue. The sale makes approximately 67 million acres in the Gulf available for bidding.
These changes are the result of a settlement reached between federal agencies and environmental groups that filed a lawsuit in 2020. The groups claimed that the government did not provide enough safeguards to protect the whales from the impacts of oil and gas exploration and development.