In January 2021, just days after he became president, Joe Biden signed an executive order pausing new oil and gas leases on federal lands and offshore waters to provide a period for a review of the program’s climate impacts. The pause not prevent companies from drilling on existing leases. That January order has now been blocked by US District Judge Terry Doughty in Louisiana.
Thirteen states, including Louisiana, jointly sued president Biden and the Interior Department in March to undo the executive order, arguing that the White House had neglected to provide a required comment period and bypassed other bureaucratic steps. Doughty wrote, “The omission of any rational explanation in cancelling the lease sales, and in enacting the Pause, results in this Court ruling that Plaintiff States also have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of this claim.” His ruling grants a preliminary injunction to those states and requires that lease sales be resumed across the country.
The Interior Department has agreed to comply with the ruling. A spokesperson said in a statement that a report based on its review “will include initial findings on the state of the federal conventional energy programs, as well as outline next steps and recommendations for the Department and Congress to improve stewardship of public lands and waters, create jobs, and build a just and equitable energy future.”