Last year, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District of Lousiana blocked Joe Biden’s executive order preventing the sale of new drilling leases to oil and gas companies. The plaintiffs are 13 states who challenged Biden’s moratorium, saying that the Interior Department lacks the authority to make such procedural changes and only Congress is empowered to do so. Judge Doughty agreed.
According to the Associated Press, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear the case and decide if the Executive Branch is allowed to place such a restriction on new leases or not. As it turns out, the plaintiffs seem to have the upper-hand since there are no provisions in federal allowing for drilling lease sales to be “paused.”
The federal statute in question, that was also amended 35 years ago, clearly states that such leases shall be made available four times per year in states with eligible federal lands. Meaning that Biden’s pauses not only disrupted the procedures Congress outlines, but also violated federal law.
While a court ruling on this subject would be important, it may not make any difference now. Thankfully, after being turned down a number of times by oil producing countries, Biden caved and has approved the sale of new drilling leases and drilling lease sales are slated to take place starting next month in states such as Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Colorado. Unfortunately, because of labor shortages that Biden also contributed to, fossil fuel companies may have a hard time expanding their operations or recovering overall despite the revived drilling lease sales.