Environmental groups on Tuesday sued the Trump administration over its expansion of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and said they are prepared to do the same if lease sales are announced for the Atlantic coast.
"This lawsuit is specific to lease sales happening in the Gulf, but we are prepared to defend the Atlantic from offshore drilling as well," said Maggie Caldwell of New York City based Earthjustice.
The group filed the suit on behalf of the Gulf Restoration Network, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity.
The suit alleges the administration moved to expand drilling to 78 million more acres of the Gulf of Mexico, without fully analyzing the risks to people, wildlife, and the environment.
The lease sales targeted in the suit are the largest ever offered for oil and gas development in U.S. history, the organizations said.
It was in response to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) announcement last week of its next lease sale on August 15.
The suit challenges that sale and a March 2018 sale for Gulf leases, which sold 50 percent more acres than the previous sale in August 2017 at significantly lower costs per acre, the groups said.
They allege the administration is putting up so much acreage for lease it is driving down the cost per acre and allowing companies to stockpile leases at bargain prices.
The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C.
“The Gulf is one of the most productive marine regions in the United States supporting many species of turtles, dolphins and whales as well as accounting for one third of the nation’s seafood catch every year," said Cynthia Sarthou, Gulf Restoration Network executive director. "Commercial fisheries and coastal tourism alone generate more than $40 billion annually in the five Gulf states. After the BP drilling disaster, we cannot afford to loosen common sense safety measures while increasing risky drilling operations in the Gulf.”
Last year Earthjustice and a coalition of environmental and Alaska native groups filed suit in Alaska, challenging President Trump's right to end a permanent ban on new offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.