Oil industry groups sue Biden administration for halting drilling auctions due to “climate crisis”

by Ashley Muñoz

The Biden administration is being sued this week by major U.S. oil companies due to an indefinite pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Monday in the Western District of Louisiana, is being led by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and 11 other oil industry trade groups who argue that the Interior Department has failed to satisfy procedural requirements and disregarded congressional mandates for holding lease sales.

Implemented by the Secretary of the Interior, the halt on the fossil fuel oil and gas lease sales was in direct response to Section 208 of President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” issued on January 27, 2021.

Section 208 instructs the Secretary of the Interior to “pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices.”

This was a move that contributed to the destruction of American energy independence achieved by President Trump.

In June, Judge Terry Doughty, blocked Biden’s pause on issuing new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, which prevented his administration from proceeding on one of its most drastic policies to combat climate change.

API Chief Legal Officer Paul Afonso said in a statement, “The law is clear: the department must hold lease sales and provide a justification for significant policy changes. They have yet to meet these requirements in the eight months since instituting a federal leasing pause, which continues to create uncertainty for U.S. natural gas and oil producers.”

The formal review, which began in March, was said to be completed by the “early summer.” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told a Congressional committee in late July that it was coming “very soon.”

The Biden Administration started the pause on drilling in January 2021, pending a review of the environmental impact of fossil fuels and its value to taxpayers. Biden’s agenda aims to have Americans off of fossil fuel use by the year 2050.

Although Biden has slowed down certain aspects of the oil industry, companies are still able to receive permits to drill and develop oil and gas on existing leases. Officials at the Interior Department have continued to stress that U.S. companies may continue to develop oil and gas on federal lands during the pause on new leasing.

“We are complying with the court order right now. As we speak, the department is working,” said Haaland in July. “As I mentioned, there’s a lot of work that goes into even having a lease sale and so they are complying with the court order.”

Despite the Biden administration’s confirmation that it is complying with the federal court’s ruling, oil companies have not been permitted to engage in new lease sales.

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