On Tuesday, a federal judge blocked an order from the Biden administration that suspended new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters. The move dealt a blow to the president’s plan to shift the nation away from fossil fuels and cleared the way for oil and gas leases to resume on U.S. public lands.
Ruling by U.S. Federal Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana
According to the preliminary injunction issued by U.S. Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana, without approval from Congress, Biden did not have the authority to pause the leases in January when he signed Executive Order 14008, entitled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” The Louisiana judge ordered that plans proceed for lease sales that were delayed for the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska waters “and all eligible onshore properties.” Doughty remarked:
“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.”
Biden’s suspension—which fulfilled an election pledge after he campaigned on a “transition away from oil”—did not affect activity on private land, which makes up the bulk of U.S. oil and gas output. Instead, it referred specifically to federally held lands and waters, which account for roughly 22 percent of U.S. oil production. The ruling, which applies nationwide, allows for the leasing process to resume while the court hears additional arguments in the case. Doughty noted the pause could do substantial harm to states where production depends on public lands, writing:
“Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake.