US President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law on August 16, committing the federal government to auction oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. This happened just one day before a judge from the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an injunction granted by a lower court in a lawsuit brought by 13 Republican-led states against Biden’s moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters was unclear.
The ruling said: “We cannot reach the merits of the government’s challenge when we cannot ascertain from the record what conduct — an unwritten agency policy, a written policy outside the executive order, or the executive order itself — is enjoined.”
Consequently, the leasing moratorium – planned to give the government time to study the contributions to climate change of the federal leasing program – is back in effect, but likely not for long.
The Inflation Reduction Act was the result of compromise with Democratic senator Joe Manchin, who opposed the Build Back Better bill proposed by the Biden administration. One concession to gain Manchin’s support led the Democrats to include a requirement in the revised bill for oil and gas leasing on millions of acres of federal land and water for a decade. Future renewable energy projects on federal lands and waters are contingent on that leasing.