Biden ‘Moratorium’ on Oil Leasing Targeted by GOP-Led States

Source: By Erik Larson and Tripp Baltz, Bloomberg • Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2021

More than a dozen Republican-led states sued the Biden administration over a climate change initiative they claim would effectively ban oil and gas leases on federal land.

President Joe Biden’s Jan. 27 executive order entitled Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad violates federal law by sidestepping honest debate on whether the “speculative” benefits of the plan outweigh the financial cost to states, Wyoming said in a complaint filed Wednesday in federal court. A similar suit was filed separately by more than a dozen states led by Louisiana.

“This moratorium might make for a nice headline about fighting climate change, but the real consequences of the action are far from certain and far from uniformly environmentally friendly,” Wyoming said in the lawsuit.

The state’s governor, Mark Gordon, added in a statement that Biden’s policy won’t reduce climate change because “production will simply shift to other countries with less stringent emissions standards.”

The fight to protect oil and gas drilling is part of a broader strategy by Republican attorneys general to push back on policies from the new Democratic administration, from immigration to Covid-19 relief to abortion.

Biden’s executive order on oil and gas leases is an “aggressive, reckless abuse of Presidential power,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, whose suit was joined by other energy-producing states including Texas and Alaska.

“By executive fiat, Joe Biden and his administration have single-handedly driven the price of energy up — costing the American people where it hurts most, in their pocketbooks,” Landry said in a statement.

The suit also named Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who implemented the order. The Interior Department declined to comment on the suit.

The states allege the Biden plan violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the Mineral Leasing Act, among others. They seek a court order requiring the Bureau of Land Management to resume quarterly oil and gas lease sales.

The state complaints were welcomed by the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance, an oil and gas industry organization that filed its own suit Jan. 27.

“Not only does the president’s leasing ban exceed his authority, but it has a disproportionate impact on western states,” said Kathleen Sgamma, the organization’s president. “If not overturned, Biden’s leasing ban will cost states $8.3 billion in revenue by the end of his first term,” she said, citing a study by the Wyoming Energy Authority.

(Updates with comment from oil industry group.)