Energy group sues over canceled lease sales

Energy group sues over canceled lease sales
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An energy trade group is suing the Obama administration over canceled oil and natural gas lease sales in the West. 

The Western Energy Alliance on Thursday sued the Interior Department and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), saying they are breaking congressional mandates by canceling several lease sales over the past two years. 

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The group, which represents oil and natural gas companies, said the administration is working too closely with the anti-fossil fuel activists who have pushed officials to end lease sales on federal land. 

“Through protests and petitions, the Keep-It-In-The-Ground movement is trying to coerce BLM into violating the law by stopping all leasing on federal lands,” Kathleen Sgamma, the group's vice president of government and public affairs, said in a statement. 

“Yet without doing anything, activists could achieve the same goal just by leaving BLM to its own devices. Western Energy Alliance is simply asking the courts to compel BLM to follow decades-old law and hold quarterly lease sales in every oil and natural gas state.”

Federal law directs the BLM to hold four lease sales annually in a handful of oil- and gas-producing states in the West, but the agency has canceled or postponed several such auctions there since 2015.

Environmental advocates have threatened to protest several of the lease sales as part of their effort to ban fossil fuel development on federal land. They have often declared victory when the BLM cancels the sales.