facebook linkedin twitter

Federal Judge Blocks Biden’s Pause on New Oil, Gas Leases

June 16, 2021by Kevin McGill, Associated Press
FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2019, file photo, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry speaks in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. The Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water was blocked Tuesday, June 15, 2021, by a federal judge in Louisiana. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty's ruling came in a lawsuit filed in March by Louisiana’s Republican attorney general, Jeff Landry and officials in 12 other states. Doughty's ruling granting a preliminary injunction to those states said his order applies nationwide. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water was blocked Tuesday by a federal judge in Louisiana who ordered that plans continue for lease sales that were delayed for the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska waters “and all eligible onshore properties.”

The decision is a blow to Democratic President Joe Biden’s efforts to rapidly transition the nation away from fossil fuels and thereby stave off the worst effects of climate change, including catastrophic droughts, floods and wildfires.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed in March by Louisiana Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and officials in 12 other states. Doughty said his ruling applies nationwide. It grants a preliminary injunction — technically a halt to the suspension pending further arguments on the merits of the case. 

“The omission of any rational explanation in cancelling the lease sales, and in enacting the Pause, results in this Court ruling that Plaintiff States also have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of this claim,” he wrote. 

“We are reviewing the judge’s opinion and will comply with the decision,” an Interior Department statement emailed by communications director Melissa Schwartz said. “The Interior Department continues to work on an interim report that will include initial findings on the state of the federal conventional energy programs, as well as outline next steps and recommendations for the Department and Congress to improve stewardship of public lands and waters, create jobs, and build a just and equitable energy future.”

The moratorium was imposed after Biden on Jan. 27 signed executive orders to fight climate change. The suit was filed in March. The Interior Department later canceled oil and gas lease sales from public lands through June — affecting Nevada, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and the bureau’s eastern region.

Biden’s orders included a call for Interior officials to review if the leasing program unfairly benefits companies at the expense of taxpayers, as well as the program’s impact on climate change.

The 13 states that sued said the administration bypassed comment periods and other bureaucratic steps required before such delays can be undertaken, and that the moratorium would cost the states money and jobs. Doughty heard arguments in the case last week in Lafayette.

Federal lawyers argued that the public notice and comment period doesn’t apply to the suspension, that the lease sales aren’t required by law and that the Secretary of the Interior has broad discretion in leasing decisions. 

“No existing lease has been cancelled as a result of any of the actions challenged here, and development activity from exploration through drilling and production has continued at similar levels as the preceding four years,” lawyers for the administration argued in briefs.

But Doughty sided with the plaintiff states attorneys, who argued that the delay of new leasing cost states revenue from rents and royalties. 

“Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake,” wrote Doughty, who was nominated to the federal bench by President Donald Trump in 2017. 

“Local government funding, jobs for Plaintiff State workers, and funds for the restoration of Louisiana’s Coastline are at stake,” he added, alluding to a possible loss of oil and gas revenue that pays for Louisiana efforts to restore coastal wetlands.

“This is fantastic news for workers in Louisiana whose livelihoods are being threatened by the administration’s thoughtless energy policy,” U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said in a statement.

But not everyone was supportive of the judge’s decision.

“The judge’s order turns a blind eye to runaway climate pollution that’s devastating our planet,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ll keep fighting against the fossil-fuel industry and the politicians that are bought by them. 

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia are the other plaintiff states.

“This is a victory not only for the rule of law, but also for the thousands of workers who produce affordable energy for Americans,” Landry said in a statement issued shortly after the ruling.

___

Associated Press reporter Matt Brown in Billings, Montana, contributed to this report.

A+
a-

Energy

December 3, 2021
by Dan McCue
Second Major Wind Farm Approved Off US Coastline

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators have signed off on a proposal to build a wind farm off the coast of Rhode... Read More

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators have signed off on a proposal to build a wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island. The South Fork Wind Project is the second commercial-scale, offshore wind energy project approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The approximately 130 megawatt... Read More

November 29, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
Interior Dept. Report Advocates Shift Away From Fossil Fuels

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s new proposal to overhaul the nation's oil and gas leasing program drew praise this week... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s new proposal to overhaul the nation's oil and gas leasing program drew praise this week from environmentalists in Congress but complaints from oil-producing states. The proposal wouldn’t eliminate oil and gas leases but it would impose severe restrictions on them and... Read More

November 24, 2021
by Reece Nations
Bitcoin Miners Flocking to Texas for Cheap Energy May Bring Grid Problems

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ alluring low energy costs are drawing bitcoin miners from out of state despite the vulnerable condition... Read More

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ alluring low energy costs are drawing bitcoin miners from out of state despite the vulnerable condition of the electrical grid. Cryptocurrency mining is an energy-intensive process in which new cryptocurrencies are entered into circulation by using sophisticated computer hardware to solve complicated... Read More

November 18, 2021
by Reece Nations
White House Pushing Utility and Energy Providers to Prevent Shut-Offs This Winter

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is calling on energy providers to proactively coordinate American Rescue Plan Act funds to prevent... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is calling on energy providers to proactively coordinate American Rescue Plan Act funds to prevent utility shut-offs this winter. In a press briefing issued on Thursday, the Biden-Harris White House urged states, localities and tribes to utilize resources earmarked under the... Read More

November 18, 2021
by Reece Nations
Satellite Observations Uncover Methane Emissions

SAN ANTONIO — International scientists gathering data collected by satellites have discovered significant amounts of methane emissions leaking into the... Read More

SAN ANTONIO — International scientists gathering data collected by satellites have discovered significant amounts of methane emissions leaking into the Earth’s atmosphere from gas pipelines, oil fields and landfills around the world. Teams of experts monitoring satellite-based instruments from the Netherlands Institute for Space Research and... Read More

Biden Pushes Electric Vehicle Chargers as Energy Costs Spike

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is highlighting billions of dollars in his giant bipartisan infrastructure deal to pay for the installation... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is highlighting billions of dollars in his giant bipartisan infrastructure deal to pay for the installation of electric vehicle chargers across the country, an investment he says will go a long way to curbing planet-warming carbon emissions while creating good-paying jobs. Biden on Wednesday will visit... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top