Judge Rules Against Biden Administration Pause of Oil and Gas Leasing

Jun 21, 2021

by ASME.org

Last week, a federal judge in the state of Louisiana ruled against the Biden administration’s policy of pausing the sale of new oil and gas leases on federal land while the administration reviews the program. During his first week in office, President Biden issued an Executive Order directing the Department of Interior to suspend leasing until an in-depth review had been conducted. The pause was originally issued by the Biden administration as part of its efforts to fight climate change.
 
The federal judge examining the case cited that pausing leasing on federal lands unduly negatively impacts oil-producing states. The judge ruled that the administration would need Congressional approval to halt the sales of leases and ruled in favor of the states that came together to challenge the policy. While environmental groups intend to fight the decision on the grounds that the Biden administration has authority to pause the program, the ruling is nonetheless damaging to the President’s climate agenda.
 
The leasing pause was implemented as part of the Biden administration’s agenda to take aggressive action on climate change and specifically was meant to give the administration an opportunity to examine whether royalty rates or drilling should increase, as they had been consistent for a century. The Executive Order on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” which created the policy, states:
 
Sec. 208. Oil and Natural Gas Development on Public Lands and in Offshore Waters. To the extent consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of the Interior shall pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices in light of the Secretary of the Interior’s broad stewardship responsibilities over the public lands and in offshore waters, including potential climate and other impacts associated with oil and gas activities on public lands or in offshore waters. The Secretary of the Interior shall complete that review in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Secretary of Energy.  In conducting this analysis, and to the extent consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of the Interior shall consider whether to adjust royalties associated with coal, oil, and gas resources extracted from public lands and offshore waters, or take other appropriate action, to account for corresponding climate costs.
 
This Executive Order is part of the Biden Administration’s larger agenda to achieve a carbon-pollution-free power sector by 2035 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The Executive Order comes quickly after President Biden fulfilled his campaign promise to rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day in office. Additionally, Biden has already begun to review Trump-era rollbacks of Obama-era environmental protection standards.
 

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