Biden sued by more than a dozen states over moratorium on federal oil leases

President Joe Biden came into office with the promise of swift action on a number of hot-button issues, including the environment.

After issuing a moratorium on leases for oil and gas drilling operations on public lands, however, a group of 13 state attorneys general is challenging the administration in court, the Washington Examiner reports.

“A comprehensive review”

The move was one of several executive orders Biden instituted in the early days of his term, prompting widespread criticism based on predictions of a detrimental impact to the nation’s energy production as well as financial revenues on which energy-producing states rely.

For their part, more than a dozen GOP officials have signed on to a legal challenge being led by Louisiana. The other states represented in the case are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia, the Examiner notes.

At issue is a Jan. 27 executive order called Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which, among other things, order the Department of the Interior to “pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices.”

Entities within the Biden administration, specifically the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Land Management, are facing accusations in the lawsuit of violating the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), the Mineral Leasing Act, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

The APA, as its name implies, established numerous procedures by which the executive branch may take actions or make rules. Attorneys general represented in the recent court filing, however, argue that the Biden administration ignored those rules with its sudden implementation of a moratorium on drilling.

States claim “irreparable” harm

According to the lawsuit, Biden’s order also violated the two other acts mandating that the government make federal land available to be leased for exploration and drilling that is related to domestic energy production.

Furthermore, the 13 states claim that they have suffered “irreparable” financial harm in that they rely heavily on revenues and royalties generated from those oil and gas leases.

Biden’s order, they claim, was ironically harmful to the environment because a substantial portion of those lease proceeds is directed toward programs intended to protect and restore the environment in various ways.

Plaintiffs in the suit are requesting that the court find Biden’s orders to be unlawful and procedurally invalid, issuing an injunction against further enforcement of the moratorium. They also want the administration to be compelled to follow through on prescheduled leases that have been either canceled or delayed.

Though not a part of this lawsuit, Wyoming is pursuing its own court action that makes similar arguments regarding the perceived illegality and invalidity of the lease moratorium.

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