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Utah Sues to Stop Biden Oil/Gas Lease Ban

SALT LAKE CITY (March 24, 2021) – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a lawsuit to block Biden Administration’s plan to suspend oil and gas leases on federal land in Utah.  The lawsuit says Biden Executive Order 14008 is in violation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA). 

“The Biden administration’s unlawful moratorium on federal land leasing threatens Utah’s oil and gas industry,” Attorney General Reyes said. “Not only does the industry add billions of dollars to Utah’s economy each year, it also supports over 32,000 jobs in Utah. Revenue from oil and gas leases and royalties help fund schools and local governments, as well as health, safety, and environmental projects across the State. Without any explanation, President Biden’s order stops lease sales in violation of federal law.”

In January, President Biden signed the Executive Order which declares a moratorium on future oil and gas leasing and drilling permits on all federal lands. The Executive Order halted all oil and gas leasing operations, days after the Interior Department halted development and exploration of existing leases. Together, these actions make-up the Biden Ban – what the industry calls ‘an aggressive, reckless abuse of Presidential power that threatens American families’ livelihoods and our national security.’ 

“By executive fiat, Joe Biden and his administration have single-handedly driven the price of energy up – costing the American people where it hurts most, in their pocketbooks,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry. “Biden’s Executive Orders abandon middle-class jobs at a time when America needs them most and put our energy security in the hands of foreign countries, many of whom despise America’s greatness.” 

The state of Louisiana led the lawsuit, which states: “The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and Mineral Leasing Act set out specific statutory duties requiring executive agencies to further the expeditious and safe development of the abundant energy. In compliance with those statutes, the Department of the Interior has for decades issued leases for the development of oil and natural gas on public lands and offshore waters.” 

These leases allow America to reach its full energy-production potential. For the states specifically, they also provide significant environmental benefits because portions of the lease proceeds are invested into vital State environmental defense and restoration projects. In fact, each year the federal government returns billions of dollars to the States and environmental reclamation projects from OCSLA and MLA lease proceeds for critical environmental restoration and protection projects. 
 
The Biden Ban purports to protect the environment, but instead it constitutes what is likely the single-largest divestment of revenue for environmental protection projects in American history. Making matters worse, the agencies implementing the Order – the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Land Management – rushed to stop long-planned lease sales without any consideration whether the Biden Ban complies with the law, the public good, or the procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. 

To facilitate the Outer Continental Shelf’s expeditious development, OCSLA directs the Secretary of the Interior to “administer the provisions of this subchapter relating to the leasing of the outer Continental Shelf.” To this end, OCSLA requires the Secretary to create a Five-Year Leasing Program and authorizes her “to grant to the highest responsible qualified bidder or bidders by competitive bidding, under regulations promulgated in advance, any oil and gas lease on submerged lands of the outer Continental Shelf” not covered by prior leases. OCSLA also requires the Department to review lessee requests for approval to explore and develop oil and gas resources. States are entitled to significant portions of the proceeds from Outer Continental Shelf leasing and production. The Mineral Leasing Act has similar provisions for onshore oil and gas development. These laws affirm Congress’s intent to responsibly use our own resources as a means of achieving energy independence. 

The state of Louisiana led the lawsuit, which states: “The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and Mineral Leasing Act set out specific statutory duties requiring executive agencies to further the expeditious and safe development of the abundant energy. In compliance with those statutes, the Department of the Interior has for decades issued leases for the development of oil and natural gas on public lands and offshore waters.” 
 
These leases allow America to reach its full energy-production potential. For the states specifically, they also provide significant environmental benefits because portions of the lease proceeds are invested into vital State environmental defense and restoration projects. In fact, each year the federal government returns billions of dollars to the States and environmental reclamation projects from OCSLA and MLA lease proceeds for critical environmental restoration and protection projects. 
 
The Biden Ban purports to protect the environment, but instead it constitutes what is likely the single-largest divestment of revenue for environmental protection projects in American history. Making matters worse, the agencies implementing the Order – the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Land Management – rushed to stop long-planned lease sales without any consideration whether the Biden Ban complies with the law, the public good, or the procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. 
 
In addition to Utah, the following states joined in the lawsuit filed this morning in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. 
 

See the filed copy of the lawsuit here.

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