Energy

Biden administration will appeal order blocking suspension of new oil and gas leases

NEW ORLEANS — President Joe Biden’s administration filed notice Monday that it is appealing a federal judge’s order that blocked Biden’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and waters.

A Louisiana-based federal judge issued the ruling in June, siding with Louisiana’s attorney general and officials in 12 other states, including Alaska. Those states said the administration bypassed comment periods and other bureaucratic steps required before such delays can be undertaken and the moratorium would cost the states money and jobs.

In a statement on the appeal, the Interior Department said it will proceed with leasing, consistent with the judge’s June ruling, while the appeal proceeds. However, the department also said it “will continue to exercise the authority and discretion provided under the law to conduct leasing in a manner that takes into account the program’s many deficiencies.”

The statement reemphasized the administration position that the pause is needed because the federal oil and gas leasing programs are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions. The appeal is being filed with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The moratorium was imposed after Biden signed executive orders on Jan. 27 to fight climate change. The suit was filed in March and U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Lafayette issued his injunction June 15. The Interior Department had already 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.

Doughty cited what he called the administration’s “omission of any rational explanation in cancelling the lease sales, and in enacting the Pause.” He sided with states’ attorneys who argued that the delay of new leasing cost states revenue from rents and royalties.

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

In the statement announcing the appeal on the pause of oil and gas leases, the administration said it plans to officially announce this week plans to review the federal coal leasing program. The statement provided no details.

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