In a game of political chess, a Louisiana federal judge countered against the Biden administration’s agenda of instituting a pause on new oil and gas leases within the Gulf of Mexico and Alaskan waters. Furthering the reach, the judge included “all eligible onshore properties.” The ruling landed as a setback to the Biden camp’s maneuvering of the nation towards renewable energy with a projected abandonment of fossil fuels.
While the lawsuit was filed in March by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (Republican) and officials from 12 additional states, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty indicated his ruling applied to all states within the union. Depending upon future arguments on the case’s validity, the ruling provides an injunction at the present time.
“The omission of any rational explanation in canceling the lease sales, and in enacting the pause, results in this Court ruling that Plaintiff States also have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of this claim,” Doughty wrote.
Weighing in, the Interior Department issued a statement of its own in response to Judge Doughty’s ruling.
“We are reviewing the judge’s opinion and will comply with the decision,” wrote Melissa Schwartz, Communications Director to the Interior Department. “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 equitable energy future.”
Although Mike Hunter has since resigned as the Oklahoma Attorney General, he and other state AG’s teamed with Landry in his lawsuit. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office released its own statement in response to the ruling.
“The ruling is a victory for the rule of law, for Oklahoma, and for the energy industry,” said Mithun Mansinghani, Oklahoma Solicitor General. “This year, the Oklahoma legislature directed our office to monitor and challenge unlawful federal actions, including executive orders like this one. Oklahoma can ill afford to have a president attack its main industry by executive fiat. Oklahoma energy companies operate on federal lands throughout the country. This executive order is not only unlawful, but also threatens state revenue, may further raise energy and gas prices, and harms the hard-working men and women whose livelihoods depend on these quality jobs.”
- The suspension came online after Biden signed an executive order on January 27, 2021.
- After Biden signed the executive order, the Interior Department suspended oil and gas leases sales from public land through June of 2021.
- The states affected by this course of action include Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Montana, New Mexico, and Utah.
- The eastern region represented by the department
Pausing Leases and Subsidies
Citing loss of revenue and jobs, the 13 states involved with the lawsuit bypassed commentary periods and additional bureaucratic stages prior to instituting delays. Responding to these notions, federal attorneys disagreed and indicated that public notice and comment periods do not apply to suspension. Furthermore, they added that lease sales are not required in accordance with the law and added that the Secretary of the Interior has robust prudence in leasing decisions.
“No existing lease has been canceled as a result of any actions challenger here, and development activity from exploration through drilling and production has continued at similar levels as the preceding four years,” argued administration attorneys.
This still did not sway Doughty in his decision-making process, and he sided with the plaintiffs. They reiterated the fact that the stall of new leasing directly affects the revenue stream found in rent and royalties.
“Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake,” wrote Doughty, who received his nomination to the federal bench by President Donald Trump in 2017.
“Local government funding, jobs for Plaintiff State workers, and funds for the restoration of Louisiana’s Coastline are at stake,” wrote Doughty, who hinted at a potential loss of oil and gas revenue that financially backs Louisiana’s attempts to restore coastal wetlands.
Republican Senator Bill Cassidy expressed encouragement regarding the news of the lawsuit as Louisiana livelihoods are in the crosshairs of a subpar energy policy. Still, the decision did not receive glowing support from all.
“The judge’s order turns a blind eye to runaway climate pollution that’s devastating our planet,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Public Lands Program Director, Randi Spivak. “We’ll keep fighting against the fossil-fuel industry and the politicians that are bought by them.”
State Makeup of the Lawsuit
- West Virginia
While the players await the next move as neither side of the argument is predicted to simply surrender, the present winners are enjoying the successes.
“This is a victory not only for the rule of law but also for the thousands of workers who produce affordable energy for Americans,” said Landry in a statement presented following the ruling.