Federal judge overturns oil leasing freeze in blow to Biden
A federal judge ordered new oil and gas leasing to restart in public lands and waters yesterday, reversing the Biden administration’s controversial pause on the sale of drilling rights.
Judge Terry Doughty’s decision allows leasing to resume nationwide, dealing an early loss to President Biden’s push to tackle climate change. The ruling out of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana also marks a victory for oil-producing states that have argued the federal oil and gas program supports local jobs and tax revenue.
Doughty’s preliminary injunction, which reverses the pause until the court decides on the substance of the arguments in the case, undercuts part of a sweeping climate-focused executive order Biden issued shortly after taking office. Biden had directed a temporary halt on new lease sales during a review of the federal oil and gas program that could overhaul how the U.S. manages its vast stores of fossil fuels.
“Although there is certainly nothing wrong with performing a comprehensive review, there is a problem in ignoring acts of Congress while the review is being completed,” said Doughty in an opinion late yesterday afternoon.
Doughty, a Trump appointee, said the Interior Department had overstepped its authority to decide whether to offer areas for oil and gas development, citing statutory requirements to lease public land and federal waters. He rejected the Biden administration’s claims that the states had not been able to show harm from the pause.