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August 25, 2021

US to resume oil leasing after judge rules against ban

A spokesperson for the US Government said on Tuesday that it would soon resume oil and gas leasing, complying with a court order.

By Matt Farmer

A spokesperson for the US Government said on Tuesday that it would soon resume oil and gas leasing, complying with a court order. The first auction of Gulf of Mexico leases will take place in early September.

President Biden promised to ban oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters in his election campaign last year. The promise formed part of Biden’s plan to prevent climate change and encourage the growth of renewables in the US.

Upon assuming office, Biden quickly enacted a ban, facing resistance from several oil-bearing states. These 13 states the launched a lawsuit against the US federal government, aiming to overturn the ban. The states, led by Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry, argue that the ban did not leave time for public comment periods and other bureaucratic measures. Meanwhile, federal lawyers argue that the ban is not required to undergo such steps.

In June, District Judge Terry Doughty ruled for a temporary injunction on the ban. This effectively allows leasing to resume while judges hear further arguments in the case. Doughty also stated: “The omission of any rational explanation in cancelling lease sales […] results in this court ruling that plaintiff states have a substantial likelihood of success.”

The Biden administration said it would comply with the ruling at the time. In the two months since then, little has changed, causing the plaintiff states to consider further legal action. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management argues that it has spent this time “preparing possible new lease stipulations and evaluating sale areas”. Earlier this week, the administration announced its first actions to resume leasing since the court order.

In early September, the US Bureau of Land Management will list available leases in the Gulf of Mexico. This auction would originally have taken place in March, as one of three scheduled in 2021. A statement from the bureau also said that it will take steps toward resuming onshore leases in time.

The administration plans to appeal the ruling. At the same time, a Department of the Interior review into how oil and gas leasing affects climate change continues. The agency says that the review will address the changes that “may be necessary to meet the president’s targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions”.

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