A federal judge on Thursday issued a permanent injunction that will allow new oil and gas leases on federal lands.
The ruling by Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District of Louisiana came one day after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had kicked back to Doughty an injunction he issued last year to accomplish the same goal, according to The Hill.
Doughty’s Thursday ruling permanently blocks a January 2021 executive order from President Joe Biden that halted lease sales on federal lands.
The order applies to Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia, which sued Biden.
Doughty, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled that Biden’s January 2021 order violated the Mineral Leasing Act and Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act by leaving Congress out of the loop.
“Both statutes require Government Defendants’ agencies to sell oil and gas leases. The OCSLA has a Five-Year Plan in effect that requires eligible leases to be sold. Government Defendants’ agencies have no authority to make significant revisions in the OCSLA Five-Year Plan without going through the procedure mandated by Congress,” Doughty wrote, according to The Hill.
“The MLA requires the [Interior Department] to hold lease sales, where eligible lands are available at lease quarterly. By stopping the process, the agencies are in effect amending two Congressional statutes. Neither the OCSLA nor the MLA gives the Government Defendants’ agencies the authority to implement a Stop of lease sales,” he ruled.
The ruling came a day after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals kicked back to Doughty a nationwide injunction against the order Doughty issued in June 2021. The Biden administration appealed that ruling.
As noted on jurist.org, the appellate court ruling said the initial injunction did not comply with rules requiring very specific terms and reasons for an injunction.
As such, the case was sent back to Doughty on that technicality.
“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 of the Executive Order, or the Executive Order itself—is enjoined,” the appeals court said.
Erik Milito, head of the National Ocean Industries Association, said in the long run, the appellate ruling might not mean much, according to The Washington Post.
“The case is now back with the district court for action consistent with this new opinion or for a decision on the merits,” he said, the Post reported.
“In either case, we could very well see another decision that rejects the leasing pause. In any event, the practical impacts may be minor in light of the mandates of the Inflation Reduction Act.”
Under the law, the Biden administration must reinstate $192 million in leases for the Gulf of Mexico. The law also requires two lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one in Alaska before October 2023.
The law also links renewable energy leases from wind or solar projects to a requirement that the Department of Interior offer oil and gas leases for a minimum of 60 million offshore acres and 2 million onshore acres.
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