Interior Department spokesperson Melissa Schwartz told CNN that the department was reviewing the decision.
Scott Lauermann, a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute, told CNN it is reviewing the “disappointing decision” and that the group is considering its options.
Contreras’ ruling vacated the leases and noted that although the Biden administration already auctioned off the waters, none of the sales were effective yet, 根据政府. 因此, Contreras wrote in his opinion, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management doesn’t need to undo leases — it just must not execute them.
A coalition of environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Healthy Gulf and Friends of the Earth, sued the Biden administration to stop the lease sale. Environmental law firm Earthjustice represented the coalition.
“We are pleased that the court invalidated Interior’s illegal lease sale,” Earthjustice senior attorney Brettny Hardy said in a statement. “We simply cannot continue to make investments in the fossil fuel industry to the peril of our communities and increasingly warming planet.”
Contreras’ decision found the Biden administration had used outdated modeling when assessing the climate-warming impact of the lease sale, relying on modeling from the Trump administration that concluded the greenhouse gas impacts of not drilling in the gulf would be worse than holding the lease sale — due to increased reliance on foreign oil and gas supply.
“Even under a deferential review, the Court believes that BOEM acted arbitrarily in excluding foreign consumption from its emissions analysis,” Contreras wrote in his decision.
“That’s central to the court’s decision,” Hardy told CNN. “Essentially, what the court determined is that the Interior Department was relying on totally flawed greenhouse gas emissions modeling, so they substantially underestimated the greenhouse gas impacts that would result from development on these leases that had sold.”
The ruling requires the Interior Department to redo its environmental analysis and fix its greenhouse gas modeling, after which it will need to decide whether to move forward with a new lease sale.
“I think this hopefully marks the end of business as usual when it comes to leasing,” Hardy told CNN. “Maybe it creates a sea change in the administration and gets them to start really grappling with these climate issues in a significant, practical way.”
This story has been updated with additional information.