Biden Accused of 'Sabotage' of Oil and Gas Leases by Louisiana SG

The Louisiana Solicitor General has joined fossil fuel industry advocates in criticizing President Joe Biden's administration's energy policy after a federal judge annulled a massive Gulf of Mexico oil and gas lease auction.

The comments by Liz Murrill follow a ruling by Washington, D.C Judge Rudolph Contreras to throw out the sale of 1.7 million acres of oil and gas leases.

Louisiana was one of 13 states which had successfully challenged Biden's executive order when he took office to pause new leases on federal land as part of his climate change policy.

After the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana overturned the pause, the sale of more than $198 million worth of leases went ahead in November just days after Biden called for action on climate change at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

The government appealed the decision, admitting its hands were tied, but environmental groups said Biden could have done more to stop the sale which they believed made a mockery of his climate change pledges.

But Contreras ruled on Thursday that an Interior Department analysis had miscalculated the greenhouse gas emissions from drilling.

After the ruling Solicitor General Murril said in a statement to Newsweek: "It is extremely disappointing that the Biden administration continues to sabotage oil and gas lease sales."

"These actions are crippling consumers, destroying jobs, and jeopardizing our national security," she said, "American families suffering from the pain at the pump and the cost to power their homes deserve better."

The case followed a challenge by environmental group Earthjustice. Friends of the Earth was listed as plaintiffs and the State of Louisiana and the American Petroleum Institute (API) were among those listed as defendants in the case.

The court rejected the Interior Department's argument—made by the Trump administration—that Gulf of Mexico oil production would reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it would mean less reliance on fossil fuel imports from places where production is dirtier.

In his ruling, Contreras said that the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) acted "arbitrarily in excluding foreign consumption from its emissions analysis."

The decision comes as the Biden administration balances gas prices and onshore and offshore drilling, which it wants to restrict.

However, gas prices are high and there are fears that fuel could become even more expensive given the military threat posed against Ukraine by Russia, which is a large exporter.

API's senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs Frank Macchiarola said in a media statement shared with Newsweek that the ruling would lead to a "greater dependence on foreign energy sources that result in higher emissions."

"While we are disappointed by the Court's ruling to vacate the only federal oil and gas lease sale offered last year, we urge the administration to implement policies that encourage continued leasing and development in the Gulf of Mexico," he added.

Interior Department spokesperson Melissa Schwartz told Newsweek that it was "conducting a more comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas impacts from potential oil and gas lease sales than ever before."

Joe Biden and Gulf of Mexico drillingrig
A Gulf of Mexico drilling platform is shown in this split image with President Joe Biden. Fossil fuel advocates have criticized a court decision to annul gas and oil leases in the offshore waters. Getty