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Ruling clears moratorium on Biden's 2021 new oil, gas leases

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The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Kevin Mcgill And Matthew Brown

New Orleans (AP) — To resume selling oil and gas leases on federal land and waters to the Biden administration was vacated Wednesday by a federal appeals court in New Orleans.

It was at least a temporary victory for President Joe Biden, but the direct effect was unclear.The sweeping climate bill Biden signed into law on Tuesday offers new drilling opportunities. , has mandated several lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska over the next year.

Biden signed an executive order suspending new lease sales shortly after taking office in 2021. The following March, U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana blocked the policy, and more than a dozen Republican-leaning states oppose Biden's move.

On Wednesday, the New Orleans Court of Appeals said the judge's reasons were unclear and remanded the case back to him.

“You cannot reach the merits of a government challenge if what action cannot be ascertained from the record. is prohibited.” Justice Patrick Higginbotham wrote for a panel that also included Justices James Dennis and James Graves.

Interior Department officials are reviewing the decision, spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said.

Doughty was appointed to the federal court by former President Donald Trump. Higginbotham was appointed to the Court of Appeals by former President Ronald Reagan. Dennis by former President Bill Clinton. Graves, former President Barack Obama.

Eric Milito, president of the National Offshore Industry Association, which represents oil and gas companies, said the ruling's practical impact may be small because of climate law mandates for fossil fuel leasing. .

The law requires the government to reinstate his $192 million lease in the Gulf of Mexico, which was suspended by another court ruling last year. Also, by October 2023, he needs two more sales in the Gulf and one in Alaska. Those sales had been canceled under the Biden administration.

Under upcoming legislation, Interior will conduct regular oil and gas lease sales and own at least 60 million acres (24 million ha) of offshore parcels and 2 million acres (810,000 ha). hectares) year before approving renewable energy leases to provide onshore.

"Offshore oil and gas leases are under protection and will go ahead," Milito said.

Environmentalists hope the ruling will encourage the administration to pursue other changes to the oil and gas leasing program, such as limiting future development, including where leasing takes place.

"They may not be able to enforce a full moratorium on leasing, but they can at least enforce more restrictions than an injunction," said environmental group Wilde. Jeremy Nichols of Earth Guardians said. "All eyes will be on the Home Office to see what their next move will be."