State Action Crucial in Light of Gulf of Mexico Oil Lease Sale

November 17, 2021



NCEL Point of Contact


Today, only a few days after COP26 conversations about the urgency to act on climate, the Biden-Harris Administration is set to auction off over 80 million acres for oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Climate change has impacted marine and coastal ecosystems permanently and irreversibly. This administration has prioritized acting on climate and, as part of that same effort, suspended new offshore oil leasing through an executive action earlier this year, an activity that had been supported and incentivized during the previous administration. Nonetheless, today, the federal government is carrying out an auction and opening up the Gulf of Mexico based on an outdated environmental analysis

Offshore drilling not only poses the danger of oil spills, which can and have been devastating to the marine environment. The onshore infrastructure required also has negative impacts on surrounding communities. The livelihoods, traditions, and health of coastal communities, which depend on the health of the ocean and coastal habitats, are threatened by this toxic and unnecessary industry. 

State leaders across the country have acted to restrict offshore drilling when the federal government would not. Today’s auction makes it clear that state action is necessary to close the door on offshore drilling. States have led in climate action and they can lead on ensuring that coastal communities do not have to face yet another devastating oil spill.

State Policy Examples


New York (2019) 
Amended state law to prohibit the leasing of state-owned underwater lands for offshore drilling oil and prevents state environmental agencies from authorizing leases that would result in the increase of offshore drilling in federal waters.

Virginia (2020) 
Prohibited granting of leases, easements, or permits on the beds of the coastal waters that would support any infrastructure for offshore drilling in federal waters and removes any previous policy statements in support of federal efforts to permit offshore drilling. 

Oregon (2019) 
Prohibited state agencies from leasing submerged and submersible lands within state jurisdiction for the exploration, development or production of oil, gas or sulfur or activities that would support exploration, development or production of oil, gas or sulfur in federal waters.


Maryland (2018) 
Establishing strict liability for a person that causes a spill of oil or gas while engaged in an offshore drilling activity.


Delaware (2018) 
Opposed offshore drilling and directed state officials and agencies to enforce the state’s rights to protect its coasts from offshore drilling.