Louisiana News

Louisiana, 12 other states sue Biden administration over leasing moratorium

(The Center Square) – Thirteen states, including Louisiana, have sued President Joe Biden’s administration, claiming the president’s moratorium on new oil and gas production on public land and offshore waters violates federal law.

“The Biden plan fails under the law, and it fails to account for the environmental benefits of producing domestic energy under one of the most stringent and detailed regulatory frameworks in the world,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said Wednesday.

The Biden administration issued an executive order in January, declaring a “pause” on new oil and gas leases on public land and offshore “pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices.” The secretary of the interior was directed to consider whether royalty rates associated with coal, oil and gas should be adjusted to account for the impact of those fuel sources on climate change.

The lawsuit argues the agencies tasked with enforcing the order “rushed to halt long-planned lease sales using an opaque and nonpublic process.” Regulators failed to consider whether the order is in line with legal requirements and failed to consult states, the lawsuit said.

Landry said the administration undermines its own arguments about the need to consider environmental impact and “picks winners and losers” by exempting tribal lands from the moratorium. Industry representatives said exploration in the Gulf of Mexico produces less carbon than in other jurisdictions where regulations are not as stringent and where oil-and-gas drilling operations could move.

Mineral revenue also helps to fund coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects in Louisiana. Cancellation of one federal lease sale and the suspension of two others will reduce Louisiana’s share of Gulf of Mexico Energy and Security Act funding, which is dedicated to coastal projects, by up to $17 million, said state Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath.

The Gulf of Mexico supports 94,000 Louisiana jobs, said Mike Moncla, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. It is unclear when the moratorium might end or how any new rules might affect jobs and revenue for Louisiana.

The U.S. Department of the Interior declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Landry is taking a more aggressive stance than Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who also has expressed concerns. When asked about the moratorium during his monthly radio call-in show in January, Edwards said he was worried about any impact a moratorium might have on production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Edwards said he wanted to work with the Biden administration as it decides what the drilling regulations will look like once the moratorium is over. It’s important to strike a balance between fighting climate change and fuel production, Edwards said.

“As we move away from fossil fuels into clean and renewable energy, it’s going to take decades,” Edwards said. “We’re going to continue to produce oil and gas. We can do that in Louisiana and we can do that in the Gulf.”

The other states joining the lawsuit were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

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