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Federal Judge Strikes Down Biden’s Federal Oil And Gas Lease Moratorium


“A federal judge today issued a permanent injunction against President Biden’s so-called “pause” on federal oil and gas leasing and drilling permits in 13 plaintiff states, including Montana, agreeing with Attorney General Austin Knudsen that the policy violated the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) and Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA),” the Montana Department of Justice stated.

In response to the legal victory, Montana’s Attorney General Austin Knudsen issued the following statement:

“President Biden’s executive order to choke off energy development didn’t just increase prices and hurt American families—it was flatly illegal. This decision is a victory for the rule of law and the workers and the rural communities who depend on the energy industry.” 

From the Montana Department of Justice:

United States District Judge for the Western District of Louisiana Terry Doughty issued a nationwide preliminary injunction June 2021 against the provisions of President Biden’s Executive Order 14008 that blocked oil and gas leasing operations on federal lands. His permanent injunction today is applicable only in the plaintiff states, which includes Montana. The attorneys general filed the lawsuit in March 2021.

President Biden’s order, the judge wrote, was “beyond the authority of the President of the United States”: “Even the President cannot make significant changes to the OCSLA and/or the MLA that Congress did not delegate.”

An ongoing lease moratorium would have lowered employment by 210 jobs, reduced personal income by $13 million, and cost $4 million in oil and gas taxes in Montana last year, according to a University of Wyoming study published in December 2020. The cumulative effect to the state would be 702 fewer jobs, $170 million reduced personal income, and $199 million in foregone oil and gas tax revenue by 2025.

FOX Business added:

Biden issued Executive Order 14008 — titled the “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” — on Jan. 27, 2021, days after taking office. The action ordered the Department of the Interior (DOI) to pause new oil and natural gas leases, a policy Biden pledged to pursue during his 2020 campaign, while it conducts a review of the federal leasing program.

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In March 2021, Montana joined a 13-state coalition challenging the moratorium. Three months later, Doughty issued a preliminary injunction blocking the policy from going into effect.

However, the Biden administration appealed the decision, arguing the president had the authority to pause leasing. On Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to Doughty on a procedural matter, leading to his permanent injunction Thursday.

“This decision is a significant step toward ending the ongoing uncertainty over the future of energy development on federal lands and waters,” Frank Macchiarola, the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs, said in a statement Friday.

While both the OCSLA and MLA outline processes for the president to modify the leasing programs, the two laws don’t enable a complete pause, according to API.

Expect the Biden Administration to appeal the lower court ruling and look for a liberal judge to rule in their favor.


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