Four environmental groups filed a lawsuit today against the Trump administration for its decision to open more than 78 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling. The groups – Earthjustice, the Gulf Restoration Network, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity – issued a press release announcing the lawsuit and alleging that the administration’s decision was made “without fully analyzing the risks to people, wildlife, and the environment.”
Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of the other three groups. The suit comes after the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) announcement last week that it will offer drilling leases for sale on August 15. The lawsuit challenges that sale and a previous March sale of offshore leases.
“Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke have made it clear that their first priority is handing over our public lands and waters to corporate polluters at as low a cost as possible, regardless of the consequences for our communities, marine ecosystems, and the climate,” Sierra Club Lands Protection Program Director Athan Manuel said in a statement. “We will continue to fight to protect our coasts from this administration’s reckless fire sale.”
The lawsuit was filed in a federal district court in Washington, D.C. and challenges the federal government’s environmental and safety reviews. The suit charges that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management relies on flawed assumptions about safety regulations and royalty rates, and that several of the agency’s conclusions are based on policies that were in effect during the Obama administration, but have been rolled back or eliminated under Trump. Earthjustice attorney Chris Eaton said “the Trump administration is holding up President Obama’s policies with one hand to claim the environment and worker safety won’t be compromised, while slashing those same policies with the other hand and aggressively attempting to expand drilling. Trump can’t have it both ways.”
The lawsuit also charges BOEM with significantly underestimating how the drilling would affect overall oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico and the resulting effects on global climate change.
“The Trump administration is turning over the Gulf of Mexico to oil companies so they can drill and frack with no regard for the consequences. Shortcutting environmental review puts people and wildlife at risk and will only push us deeper into the climate crisis,” Kristen Monsell, legal director of the oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
According to the release this is the second lawsuit Earthjustice has filed in the past month challenging the Trump administration’s failure to account for environmental and safety ramifications of oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
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