- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Thirteen Republican attorneys general sued Wednesday to overturn the Biden administration’s oil-and-gas leasing crackdown, arguing that the orders violate federal law governing mineral development on public lands.

According to the lawsuit, two orders — President Biden’s Jan. 27 moratorium on new mineral leases on federal lands and waters, and the Interior Department’s Jan. 20 “pause” on drilling approvals on existing leases — run afoul of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and Mineral Leasing Act.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said the “Biden ban” raises energy prices, eliminates jobs and harms the environment by cutting royalties from oil-and-gas development used to fund coastal restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Make no mistake about it, the executive orders that the president has issued since being inaugurated are killing American jobs and destroying the middle class,” Mr. Landry said at a press conference. “No other industry in America has created more middle-class jobs than the oil and gas industry. And what does it get in rewards for making America great? It gets demonized.”

The lawsuit comes as the latest red-state challenge to Mr. Biden’s executive orders on climate. A week ago, 21 states sued over the Democratic president’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline cross-border permit.

“For decades, Congress has embraced responsible development of our natural resources as a means of achieving energy independence — a matter of national security,” Mr. Landry said in a statement. “They have discarded vulnerable dependence on foreign oil, which is why the court should reject the Biden Ban.”

The other 12 states joining the action filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen criticized what he called Mr. Biden‘s “America Last energy agenda,” saying it “shows no regard for rural communities.”

“Like Joe Biden’s attempt to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, his efforts to end responsible energy development on federal land is something he doesn’t have the power to do,” Mr. Knudsen said in a statement. “It is a violation of the law.”

Mr. Biden has made reducing greenhouse-gas emissions a top priority of his administration, warning that such measures are needed to combat the “climate crisis.”

His agenda faces at least one other legal challenge: The Western Energy Alliance sued Jan. 27 to halt the ban on new leases, claiming that the president exceeded his authority and violated the Mineral Leasing Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act.

Meanwhile, the 60-day secretarial order, which required top political appointees to approve activity on existing leases instead of agency personnel, expired March 21, according to an Interior spokesperson.

Mr. Landry said that the ban will reduce Louisiana’s funding this year under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, better known as GOMESA, by as much as $57 million.

In 2020, the GOMESA funding supported the construction of barge gates, walls and levees to provide protection against storm surges and hurricanes, according to the Interior Department, as the state fights the erosion of coastal lands.

“The deprivation of funds caused by the leasing moratorium will directly contribute to the loss of Louisiana’s lands,” said the lawsuit.

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