It is abundantly clear that offshore drilling is simply impossible if we intend to maintain a livable planet. Scientists are warning with ever-increasing urgency that we need to drastically cut the carbon pollution that comes from burning coal, oil, and gas. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has admonished “the pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans are insufficient to tackle climate change….We are walking when we should be sprinting.” To do its part, the administration has formally committed to cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030 and for the nation to stop adding them to the atmosphere altogether by 2050.
But new leasing would lock in decades of climate-harming pollution/carbon emissions. It would also lock our children and future generations into depending on dirty energy and fueling the climate crisis when we need to be doing everything we can to minimize it.
We need to reduce—not expand—offshore leasing.
The costs of climate disasters just continue to grow: In 2022, climate disasters cost the United States more than $165 billion. We need to do everything in our power to avert future climate-induced flooding, wildfires, drought, harm to crops and livestock, sea level rise, and other life-threatening risks to people, communities, and wildlife. But our policies are not keeping up.
Bipartisan compromises made to secure passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) breathed new life into three lease sales: one in Cook Inlet, Alaska, and two massive lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico (Lease Sales 258, 259, and 261, respectively). Together, the three sales could auction off some 73 million acres. Not only did the IRA mandate lease sales, but it created a hostage provision that ties clean energy to oil and gas by requiring that at least one big offshore oil and gas lease happens every year if we want to issue offshore wind leases.
NRDC and partners challenged the Cook Inlet lease sale in December, and in March, we brought a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior over Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 259. We are fighting for our ocean, climate, communities, and marine life.
This September, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is expected to release a proposed five-year program for federal offshore oil and gas leasing, to be finalized in December. This is the plan that could result in up to 10 times the carbon emissions of the Willow project.