The US Department of Justice is appealing the June 2021 district court decision that directed the Department of the Interior to end its pause on new federal oil and gas leasing. According to a statement from the Department of the Interior, “federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leasing will continue as required by the district court while the government’s appeal is pending.” However, the statement indicated that, “Interior will continue to exercise the authority and discretion provided under the law to conduct leasing in a manner that takes into account the program’s many deficiencies.”
The statement notes that “federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leasing programs are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and growing climate and community impacts.” Further, the program “has been on GAO’s [the Government Accountability Office’s] ‘High Risk List’ for more than a decade, which notes programs and operations that are ‘vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement, or in need of transformation.’”
In the last three years, GAO has highlighted deficiencies about decommissioning liabilities, safety and environmental oversight, fiscal returns from the leasing program, and pipeline safety and decommissioning in the offshore program.
The Department of Justice is looking to reverse the decision made in favour of 13 states that sued the Biden administration in March this year. Those same states had last week pushed for a court order to compel the Interior Department to hold an offshore lease sale, which they said the Department had not resumed after the court order.
The Interior Department will undertake a “programmatic analysis to address what changes in the Department’s programs may be necessary to meet the President’s targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”