The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has rescheduled the offshore oil and gas lease sale, Lease Sale 261, in the Gulf of Mexico after legal challenges prompted its postponement. Initially planned for September 27, 2023, the sale will now take place on November 8, 2023.
This rescheduling comes in response to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit's ruling on September 25, 2023, which called for a more orderly lease sale process. The legal challenges revolved around environmental concerns, specifically the protection of the Rice's whale, which the Interior Department had not adequately addressed in its plans for additional protections.
Lease Sale 261 will encompass approximately 13,618 blocks across 72.7 million acres in the western, central, and eastern planning areas of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. The court has also directed BOEM to include lease blocks previously excluded due to potential impacts on the Rice's whale population.
This delay in the lease sale follows the Biden-Harris administration's commitment to a clean energy future, resulting in the proposed final program for 2024-2029 offshore oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico containing the lowest number of lease sales in U.S. history. This move aims to support offshore wind development and protect coastal communities from potential environmental damage.