Gulf of Mexico
Aerial photograph of a Rice’s whale. The three prominent ridges on the head are a feature of the species. Image: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)

USA - Oil giants suing US government for protecting the Rice's whale

Chevron, the second largest oil and gas company in the US, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the State of Louisiana are suing the White House over 6 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico.

The habitat of a whale species on the verge of extinction is at stake at an upcoming court case between oil and gas companies and the US government.  The area is protected under an agreement between President Biden and environmental groups to save one of the most endangered whales in the world: the Rice’s Whale.  

The plaintiffs claim the area was illegally withdrawn from an auction of oil drilling rights of 73 million acres of federally owned land due to take place on September 27.

Biden paused federal drilling shortly after taking office in 2021, but a clause in the Inflation Reduction Act introduced last year required the government to push ahead with the lease sale.


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Though 67 million acres of federal land will still be available for auction, API’s Senior Vice President Ryan Meyers called the environmental protection effort an ‘unjustified action to further restrict American energy access in the Gulf of Mexico’.  

He said: ‘Despite Congress’ clear intention in the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration has announced a “lease sale in name only”  that removes approximately 6 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico from the sale.’

API is also taking issue with new instructions for natural gas vessels to keep a lookout for Rice’s whales, arguing it was ‘ignoring all other vessel traffic’ and unfairly targeting the oil industry.

An agreement with the Department for Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) saw conservationists rejoicing in 2020, as new protections were put in place to allow for marine life recovery. Now it seems these concessions are at risk.

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