(USA Features) A federal judge is blocking the Biden administration from enforcing an executive order barring new oil and gas exploration on U.S.-owned land, saying it violates at least two statutes.
“Judge Terry A. Doughty of the U.S. District Court in Monroe said the administration doesn’t have the legal right to stop leasing federal territory for oil-and-gas production without approval from Congress,” The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The paper noted that Doughty also ruled “states suing the federal government—largely southern and coastal states—will be harmed immediately as the pause prevents them from collecting lease bids and bonuses from oil-and-gas prospectors.”
More than a dozen states filed suit against the administration after President Joe Biden signed his order on Jan. 27 blocking new exploration on federal lands. They include Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
The order is seen as a huge setback against the administration’s efforts to roll back fossil fuel exploration. But Doughty said his order is premised on the fact that the order violates existing federal law.
“The omission of any rational explanation in canceling the lease sales, and in enacting the Pause, results in this Court ruling that Plaintiff States also have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of this claim,” Doughty wrote.
“Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake. Plaintiff states have a reliance interest in the proceeds derived from offshore and on land oil and gas lease sales,” the judge wrote.
“Local government funding, jobs for Plaintiff State workers, and funds for the restoration of Louisiana’s Coastline are at stake,” he added.
Supporters of U.S. energy independence lauded the decision as a victory for the rule of law, workers, and citizens.
“The federal leasing pause is harmful to our nation’s national security, environmental progress and economic recovery,” said Kevin O’Scannlain, vice-president of upstream policy at the American Petroleum Institute.
“We are pleased to see the court ruling that natural gas and oil leasing must resume on federal lands and waters, and we urge the administration to move expeditiously to follow the court’s order and lift the federal leasing pause,” OScannlain added.
“Now is the time for the administration to put an end to this ‘import more oil’ policy that threatens American jobs and deprives state and local communities of much-needed revenue, all while likely increasing emissions and the risks of climate change.”
Meanwhile, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry noted that the ruling was “a major win for the Constitution, for workers employed in the oil and gas industry and for all Americans who have felt pain at the pump.”
“This is a victory not only for the rule of law, but also for the thousands of workers who produce affordable energy for Americans,” he noted further. “We appreciate that federal courts have recognized President Biden is completely outside his authority in his attempt to shut down oil and gas leases on federal lands.”