A group of oil and gas industry trade groups led by the American Petroleum Institute (API) filed a lawsuit this week challenging the temporary suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters in the US.
API and 11 other industry organisations are disputing President Joe Biden’s indefinite pause on issuing new leases on the grounds that the administration “failed to satisfy procedural requirements and ignored congressional mandates for holding lease sales,” in the words of API senior vice president and chief legal officer Paul Afonso.
The plaintiffs — including the International Association of Drilling Contractors, National Ocean Industries Association and several groups representing state and regional interests — said the administration’s indefinite pause violated federal laws and circumvented congressional mandates that require quarterly onshore lease sales and “expeditious development” of offshore resources.
Biden issued an executive order shortly after taking office in January, directing federal agencies to suspend oil and gas leasing activities while the administration reviews the programme, prompting several oil-producing states to challenge the directive in court.
In June, US District Judge Terry Doughty issued a preliminary injunction blocking the policy from going into effect.
Doughty is a judge in the Western District of Louisiana court, where the API lawsuit was filed.
The US Department of the Interior, which administers federal lease sales, issued a statement Monday saying onshore and offshore lease sales would continue while the administration fights the preliminary injunction in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The statement said the appeal, filed by the Department of Justice, was “important and necessary” while the administration considers the environmental and social costs of oil and gas exploration.
The department said “numerous critical reports over decades” have raised concerns about the leasing programme’s alleged shortcomings, including vulnerability to fraud and abuse.
The statement also said the current leasing programme “fail(s) to adequately incorporate consideration of climate impacts into leasing decisions or reflect the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions”.
The department said it would comply with the injunction during the appeal and “conduct leasing in a manner that takes into account the programme’s many deficiencies” while considering procedural changes that could help meet the administration’s targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.