Judge Rules Against Biden Administration Pause of Oil and Gas Leasing
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.