Republicans ask court to compel Biden administration to sell drilling leases
More than a dozen Republican-led states are asking a court to compel the Biden administration to sell leases for offshore drilling, arguing that the Interior Department is not following a court order requiring it to end a leasing pause.
In a court filing on Monday, the states argued that the administration is not following a June injunction that ended its pause on issuing leases on new parcels of land for public lands and offshore drilling.
“Defendants have violated the Court’s June 15 Order by their continued application of the Pause to refuse to hold new onshore lease sales or Lease Sale 257,” they wrote, referring to a specific offshore lease sale that was canceled in February.
They added that the court should “order Defendants to comply with the law and this Court’s injunction by holding Lease Sale 257.”
Under the pause — which was said to be temporary but had no announced end date — ongoing drilling on public land and water continued, and the Interior Department continued to issue permits for new drilling on land that it had already leased.
In their filing, the states specifically ask the court to reinstate Lease Sale 257, which would have auctioned off about 78 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for drilling.
A spokesperson for the department declined to comment on this week’s court briefing.
In testimony late last month, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland argued that even without having held sales, the administration was in compliance with the court order, citing the work that goes into organizing the sales.
“We are complying with the court order right now. As we speak, the department is working. As I mentioned, there’s a lot of work that goes into even having a lease sale and so they are complying with the court order,” Haaland said.
But she also said, “I suppose it’s in effect,” referring to the pause, since there hadn’t been a sale. “You can say that as soon as one lease sale happens that the pause is over, but what I can say is we’re complying with the court order.”
President Biden put forward the pause in an executive order, saying that lease sales would be halted pending a review of the department’s oil and gas permitting and leasing practices.
Haaland has said she expected that review to be completed in early summer, but it has not yet been released.