Judge Permanently Blocks Biden Oil and Gas Leasing Pause in 13 States

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A federal judge issued a permanent injunction on Aug. 18 against the Biden administration’s pause of new oil and gas leasing in federal lands.

The injunction applies to the 13 states that sued the Biden administration over the moratorium in March 2021, including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

Terry Doughty, U.S. district judge for the Western District of Louisiana, ruled that the White House overreached with the ban.

President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14008 on Jan. 27, 2021, banning all new oil and natural gas leases on federal lands and offshore waters. The order didn’t cancel existing leases on federal lands and offshore waters. Leases on private lands also weren’t affected.

Thirteen states, led by Louisiana, sued the Biden administration, saying the lease ban violated the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), which governs offshore oil and gas leases, and the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA), which governs onshore land leases on federal lands.

Doughty issued a temporary injunction in the case in June. The injunction was overthrown by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 17.

Doughty’s permanent injunction came a day after the circuit court’s ruling (pdf). In the permanent injunction, Doughty ruled that the executive branch has no authority to change both laws.

“Both statutes require Government Defendants’ agencies to sell oil and gas leases. The OCSLA has a Five-Year Plan in effect that requires eligible leases to be sold. Government Defendants’ agencies have no authority to make significant revisions in the OCSLA Five-Year Plan without going through the procedure mandated by Congress. The MLA requires the DOI to hold lease sales, where eligible lands are available at least quarterly,” he wrote in the ruling (pdf). “By stopping the process, the agencies are in effect amending two Congressional statutes. Neither the OCSLA nor the MLA gives the Government Defendants’ agencies the authority to implement a Stop of lease sales.”

Interior Department and the White House officials didn’t respond to requests for comments by press time.

By Allen Zhong

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