Energy & Environment

Judge halts Biden pause on new public lands oil leasing

getty

A federal judge has issued an order temporarily blocking the Biden administration’s pause on new oil and gas leasing on public land and waters.

The preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty follows lawsuits over the leasing pause from more than a dozen Republican-led states.

Doughty, a Trump appointee in Louisiana, did not make an ultimate determination as to the legality of the pause on Tuesday,  but rather blocked the move while the court case against it proceeds.

However, he did find that the states had a “substantial” likelihood to succeed on the merits of their claim and that they were able to demonstrate a “substantial” threat of irreparable harm. 

The ruling is something of a setback for the Biden administration, which had paused issuing new drilling leases on federally-owned land and water while it reviews and reconsiders its current leasing and permitting practices.

An Interior Department spokesperson told The Hill via email that the department will abide by the decision while continuing its review. 

“We are reviewing the judge’s opinion and will comply with the decision,” the spokesperson 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.”

During the pause — which did not have an end date but was expected to last at least until the end of June — the administration continued to issue new permits on existing leases while existing drilling was able to continue. 

While on the campaign trail, President Biden pledged to ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters,  but since taking office, his administration has not said whether it ultimately hopes to do so. 

The Energy Department’s statistics agency found in a March analysis that the pause is expected to have “no effects” until 2022. 

But in his decision, Doughty argued that the states will eventually face losses as a result. 

“Even though existing leases are proceeding, the fact that new oil and gas leases on federal lands and in federal waters are paused will ultimately result in losses to Plaintiff States which they will likely not be able to recover,” he wrote. 

The pause sparked significant backlash from Republicans as well as the oil and gas industry. 

Many of these opponents celebrated Tuesday’s decision and called for the administration to lift the pause entirely. 

“This decision is a victory for the rule of law and American energy workers,” said a statement from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).  

“The president’s illegal ban has hurt workers and deprived Wyoming and other states of a principal source of revenue that they use for public education. President Biden should immediately rescind his punishing ban,” he said. 

Tags Joe Biden John Barrasso
See all Hill.TV See all Video