The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had lease sale 229 in New Orleans in late November, putting more than 20 million acres offshore on the auction block. The department said it attracted more than $133 million in bids.
The Center for Sustainable Economy said it filed a lawsuit claiming Washington used "incomplete and flawed economic analysis" in its decisions regarding a 5-year lease plan outlined by U.S. President Barack Obama.
CSE President John Talberth said the outer continental shelf should be developed only when there's a "compelling" reason.
"Instead, the Obama administration is rushing headlong into a program that will put our shores and oceans at risk and do nothing at all for America's energy security," he said in a statement.
The U.S. government imposed a moratorium on deep-water work in the Gulf of Mexico following the oil spill there in 2010. The government estimated the November lease could result in the production of, on average, 150 million barrels of oil and 730 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
Steven Sugarman, a lawyer working on the suit for CSE, said the BOEM ignored issues like onshore developments, increased U.S. natural gas production and other factors when giving its consent for new offshore leases.
"These omissions from BOEM's economic analysis create an extreme and illegal bias in favor of new leasing," he said.
There was no public statement from the administration on the lawsuit.