Green groups sue over expanded Gulf drilling

Green groups sue over expanded Gulf drilling
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Green groups are suing the Trump administration over its decision to expand drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on Monday on behalf of three groups, the Gulf Restoration Network, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, against the Interior Department and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The suit targets a decision from the administration to open up 78 million acres of the Gulf to potential drilling.

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The groups say regulators have failed to do the necessary environmental checks and are in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

“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, executive director of the Gulf Restoration Network, in a statement.

"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.”

The groups also say that the recent sales are allowing industry to purchase leases at record-low prices.

"In a departure from past practices, the agency is now offering essentially all available, unleased acreage in the Gulf," said Earthjustice in a release. "The effect is to reduce competition for available blocks and to allow fossil fuel companies to acquire and hoard leases at rock-bottom prices."

It's the second lawsuit Earthjustice has filed over the Trump administration's efforts to expand oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Interior Department hopes to use the sales to raise funds to pay for a number of other projects. But a sale earlier this year in the Gulf drew lukewarm interest.

The moves have sparked pushback from environmental groups.

“With these massive lease sales in the Gulf, the Trump administration is holding up President Obama’s policies with one hand to claim the environment and worker safety won’t be compromised, while slashing those same policies with the other hand and aggressively attempting to expand drilling. Trump can’t have it both ways.” said Chris Eaton, an attorney with Earthjustice.