US Department of Interior says oil and gas leasing will resume

Aug. 21, 2021
But Biden administration appeals recent court ruling.

Offshore staff  

WASHINGTON, DC and NEW ORLEANS – The Biden administration has filed notice that it is appealing a federal judge’s order that blocked its suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and waters that include the Gulf of Mexico.

An auction of federal leases in the Gulf was halted in March as a result of the moratorium, and created uncertainty for one scheduled in November. 

In a statement issued on August 16, the Department of the Interior said it would “continue” onshore and offshore oil and gas leasing as required by US District Judge Terry Doughty, while it challenges the judge’s decision before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. 

Doughty sided with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and officials in 12 other states. Those states 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.

The Interior Department statement re-emphasized the administration position that the “pause” is needed; it contends that federal oil and gas leasing programs are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier that same day (August 16), a dozen oil industry trade groups, led by the American Petroleum Institute, filed a new lawsuit challenging the leasing pause, joining at least three other related cases proceeding in federal courts.

The appeal comes just ahead of a court deadline for the administration to explain how it was complying with Doughty’s June 15 order that leasing should resume. The Interior Department has not yet issued public plans for new lease sales or rescheduled any lease sales.

Even as the Interior Department said that it would resume leasing, it made clear that it intends to pursue significant changes in the leasing program: “Federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leasing programs are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and growing climate and community impacts,” the agency said in its August 16 statement. “Yet the current programs fail to adequately incorporate consideration of climate impacts into leasing decisions or reflect the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions, including, for example, in royalty rates.”