Energy & Environment

Oil industry trade groups sue Biden administration over leasing pause

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The American Petroleum Industry (API) led 12 energy trade groups Monday in a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing sales, saying the pause constitutes an illegal indefinite suspension of leases.

In the lawsuit, the API argued that the leasing moratorium, which President Biden established in January, ran afoul of federal law requiring regular lease sales and “reasoned explanations for policy changes.” Plaintiffs cited the Mineral Leasing Act, which they wrote requires regular leasing of land suitable for oil and gas drilling.

“The law is clear: the department must hold lease sales and provide a justification for significant policy changes. They have yet to meet these requirements in the eight months since instituting a federal leasing pause, which continues to create uncertainty for U.S. natural gas and oil producers,” API Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Paul Afonso said in a statement Monday.

“As our industry takes action to preserve our legal rights, we will continue working with the Biden administration on policies that support a lower-carbon future while providing access to the affordable, reliable energy our economy needs to recover,” Alfonso added.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the American Exploration & Production Council, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, the National Ocean Industries Association, the Montana Petroleum Association, the North Dakota Petroleum Council, the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma, the Southeast Oil and Gas Association, the Utah Petroleum Association and the Western States Petroleum Association.

A federal judge in June previously imposed a nationwide injunction against the moratorium while a separate lawsuit from Republican-led states proceeds. Last week, the states argued in court that the federal government has violated the June order by not resuming lease sales. They specifically called on the court to reinstate a sale of about 78 million acres offshore of the Gulf of Mexico.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has defended the administration as in compliance with the injunction, saying resumption of sales is “not a switch you can turn on.”

“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,” she said in July.  

The Interior Department declined to comment to The Hill.

Tags Deb Haaland Joe Biden Mineral Leasing Act oil leases oil leasing moratorium Petroleum

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