14 States Sue Biden Administration Over Oil, Gas Leasing Moratorium

March 24, 2021 Updated: March 24, 2021

A group of Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its executive action pausing new oil and gas drilling on federal land.

In their lawsuit, filed (pdf) on March 24 in the District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, 13 state attorneys general sought to end the suspension of issuing new oil and gas leases on federal land and water. President Joe Biden signed the executive orders as part of his attempt to address climate change on Jan. 27. Wyoming’s attorney general filed a separate lawsuit in a court in its own state.

The lawsuits allege the administration’s leasing pause violates the Mineral Leasing Act that requires quarterly lease sales and sought to restore regular federal drilling auctions. The attorneys general also want other suspended lease orders to move forward in places such as Montana, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

“By executive fiat, Joe Biden and his administration have single-handedly driven the price of energy up—costing the American people where it hurts most, in their pocketbooks,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is leading the suit, said in a statement. “Biden’s executive orders abandon middle-class jobs at a time when America needs them most and put our energy security in the hands of foreign countries, many of whom despise America’s greatness.”

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia joined the suit.

“The real consequences of the action are far from certain and far from uniformly environmentally friendly,” Wyoming said in its complaint.

Biden administration officials have argued that oil and gas firms have numerous undeveloped leases to use, saying that about 14 million acres are available in western states and 9 million acres are available offshore.

“This will not affect oil and gas production or jobs for years to come,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on March 24 when asked about the lawsuit.

According to the text of Biden’s order, the “Secretary of the Interior shall 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 in light of the Secretary of the Interior’s broad stewardship responsibilities over the public lands and in offshore waters.”

The moratorium has triggered heavy criticism from the oil industry and from producing states that receive half of the revenues generated from federal lands drilling within their borders.

The Department of the Interior didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

Reuters contributed to this report.