The Biden administration quietly agreed to a legal settlement with a coalition of environmentalist groups late Friday, an agreement which will restrict oil drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico, according to FOX News.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) agreed to abide by requests from a Sierra Club-led coalition of environmentalist groups stemming from an October 2020 lawsuit, which argued that the federal government had inadequately estimated the risks posed to wildlife by drilling activity, according to FOX News. The settlement will result in additional protections for the Rice’s whale species, and the government will prevent future oil and gas leasing in about 11 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico.
Further, the Biden administration will set new speed restrictions for vessels used in oil and gas-related activities, which may reduce transit windows to 25% during the winter months and less than 40% of the time annually, according to estimates from the American Petroleum Institute (API) cited by FOX News. The speed restrictions will not apply to vessels associated with other activities.
Between the widened environmental protections, exclusion of millions of acres of resource-rich waters from development and the vessel speed restrictions, the settlement may render future oil and gas activity in the Gulf prohibitively expensive.
In exchange for the government agreeing to abide by these conditions, Sierra Club and the other environmental groups in the coalition have agreed to suspend their litigation against the government, according to FOX News. The NMFS filed the stay solidifying the agreement with the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
“This private settlement agreement between the federal government and environmental activists places unfounded restrictions on operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico that severely hamper America’s ability to produce energy in a region that is responsible for the lowest carbon-intensive barrels in the world,” the API said of the ruling in a press release. “Despite no evidence to warrant this far-reaching ban on operations after extensive data collections, today’s agreement undermines the integrity of legitimate conservation and habitat protection efforts, violates the explicit directives of Congress in enacting the Inflation Reduction Act, and harms America’s energy independence.”
The considerable area excluded from future leasing likely would have been available for leasing sales under the Inflation Reduction Act, according to FOX News.
The Biden administration has aggressively targeted fossil fuels and fossil fuel-related interests to facilitate its broader green agenda. As a candidate for the presidency in 2019, Joe Biden delivered a personal “guarantee” that his administration would “end fossil fuels.”
The NMFS declined to comment on the litigation. Neither the Sierra club nor the White House responded immediately to requests for comment.
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