States sue to undo Biden pause on US oil & gas lease sales

March 24, 2021
Lawsuit seeks go-ahead on Lease Sale 257.

Offshore staff

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – Thirteen states filed suit against the Biden administration on Wednesday to end a suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, and to reschedule canceled sales of leases in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaskan waters and in western states.

The Republican-leaning states, led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, seek a court order ending the moratorium imposed after Democratic President Joe Biden signed executive orders on climate change on Jan. 27.

According to multiple online reports, the suit specifically seeks an order that the government go ahead with a sale of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico that had been scheduled for March 17 until it was canceled; and a lease sale that had been planned for this year in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

And it calls for other suspended lease sales to go forward. Sales also have been postponed for federal lands in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma, Nevada and New Mexico.

Biden and multiple federal agencies bypassed comment periods and other bureaucratic steps required before such delays can be undertaken, the states claim in the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in the federal court’s Western District of Louisiana.

The lawsuit notes that coastal states receive significant revenue from onshore and offshore oil and gas activity. Stopping leases, the lawsuit argues, would diminish revenue that pays for Louisiana efforts to restore coastal wetlands, raise energy costs, and lead to major job losses in oil producing states.

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

Western Energy Alliance, an industry lobbying group based in Colorado, sued over the leasing suspension in federal court in Wyoming on the same day it was announced. The Biden administration had not responded to the complaint as of Wednesday. Administration officials have declined to say how long the pause on lease sales will last.

The Interior Department is hosting a livestreamed forum on the leasing program on Thursday as it considers changes that could affect future sales and how much companies pay for oil and gas they extract. A report outlining initial findings and the next steps in the review is due this summer.