- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Biden administration came under pressure Wednesday to resume leasing sales for oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters after a federal judge handed Republican attorneys general a victory by blocking President Biden’s moratorium.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, prodded the Interior Department to resume lease sales after a judge Tuesday granted a temporary injunction halting Mr. Biden’s Jan. 27 executive order to “pause” fossil-fuel leasing while the administration conducts a “comprehensive review.”

“This is fantastic news for workers in Louisiana whose livelihoods are being threatened by the administration’s thoughtless energy policy,” Mr. Cassidy said in a statement. “The Department of the Interior should immediately begin moving forward with another offshore lease sale.”

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Terry A. Doughty delivered a setback to the administration‘s moves to combat climate change by clamping down on domestic energy production, including the June 1 suspension of drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, noted that the Interior Department “is required by law to expeditiously develop America’s energy resources, and this includes the obligation to schedule and hold offshore oil and gas lease sales. Today’s ruling simply confirms the legal requirements.”

“The Biden administration should promptly fulfill its obligation to the American people and capitalize on an American environmental and emissions success story by immediately resuming Gulf of Mexico lease sales,” he said.

Judge Doughty, who issued the injunction pending the outcome of a 13-state lawsuit led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, said the plaintiffs had a “substantial likelihood of success on the merits” given the “omission of any rational explanation in canceling the lease sales.”

Mr. Landry called the decision “a victory not only for the rule of law, but also for the thousands of workers who produce affordable energy for Americans,” said Mr. Landry.

He said that in a Thursday hearing, the administration “admitted a March 2021 auction of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico and a planned auction of leases in Alaska’s Cook Inlet were halted in response to an order by President Biden.”

“We appreciate that federal courts have once again recognized President Biden is completely outside his authority in his attempt to shut down oil and gas leases on federal lands,” Mr. Landry said.

In a statement to media outlets, Interior spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said the department was reviewing the judge’s decision and would comply with it.

“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 recommendations for the department and Congress to improve stewardship of public lands and waters, create jobs, and build a just and equitable energy future,” she said.

Environmental groups decried the ruling by Judge Doughty, who was appointed by President Trump.

“The judge’s order turns a blind eye to runaway climate pollution that’s devastating our planet,” said Randi Spivak, the Center for Biological Diversity public lands program director, adding that the administration “clearly has the authority to pause and review oil and gas leasing on public lands.”

Kevin O’Scannlain, American Petroleum Institute vice president of upstream policy, urged the administration “to move expeditiously to follow the court’s order and lift the federal leasing pause.”

“Now is the time for the administration to put an end to this ‘import more oil’ policy that threatens American jobs and deprives state and local communities of much-needed revenue, all while likely increasing emissions and the risks of climate change,” Mr. O’Scannlain said.

The other states joining the lawsuit are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia, while Wyoming has filed a separate legal challenge.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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