By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – A federal judge sided with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and 12 other plaintiff states in a Louisiana-led lawsuit, issuing a permanent injunction against the Biden administration’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal lands and water.
U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty issued the permanent injunction, declaring that the president exceeded his authority when halting oil and gas leasing and drilling permits.
“I am pleased the Court recognized that the President stepped outside his authority,” Mr. Landry said in a statement. “Biden’s energy policies have crushed American families with higher energy bills for their homes and vehicles.”
Judge Doughty ruled that President Joe Biden’s executive order issued Jan. 27, 2021, violated the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) and Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and 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.”
The order implemented a moratorium on new development of oil and gas fields on federal lands just days after the U.S. Interior Department also imposed restrictions on existing leases. Also under President Biden’s directive, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Land Management halted long-planned lease sales, which the lawsuit argued violated federal law and the procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.
Mr. Landry said his office “will continue to ensure that American energy policy is crafted by the Legislative Branch, not the Judiciary or Executive. We must keep fighting and winning to bring relief to American consumers.”
The permanent injunction was issued more than a year after Judge Doughty issued a preliminary injunction June 15, 2021. The Biden administration appealed the decision, arguing the president has the authority to halt leasing. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and sent the case back to Judge Doughty, which resulted in him issuing a permanent injunction.
Neighboring Gulf state Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who joined the multi-state lawsuit, said the president’s moratorium was “an all-out assault against oil and natural gas production [and] would have killed good-paying jobs and increased consumer energy costs, all while decreasing funds that could be used for the restoration of state coastlines.”
The states joining Louisiana and Texas in the lawsuit were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia.
“Joe Biden may have declared war on American energy independence, but we’re fighting back and we’re winning in court,” Mr. Paxton said in a statement. “The executive order was a clear example of unconstitutional federal overreach, and I’m pleased to see the court make the right decision in issuing a permanent injunction to prevent it from taking effect.”
In his 43-page ruling, Judge Doughty said, “Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake. Local government funding, jobs for Plaintiff States’ workers, and funds for the restoration of . . . Coastline[s] are at stake. Plaintiff States have a reliance interest in the proceeds derived from offshore and onshore oil and gas lease sales. Additionally, the public interest is served when the law is followed. The public will be served if Government Defendants are enjoined from taking actions contrary to law. In a time of high gas and oil prices, draining of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and looking to other nations to supply the United States’ oil and gas needs, the public interest would be served by a permanent injunction.”
The administration hasn’t yet issued a statement on the ruling, and another appeal to the Fifth Circuit is expected to be unsuccessful.
While Texas leads the U.S. in oil and natural gas production, Louisiana accounts for nearly one-fifth of America’s refining capacity and can process about 3.2 million barrels of crude oil a day. Louisiana has the third-highest natural gas production and reserves in the U.S. and consistently ranks among the top in both crude oil reserves and crude oil production.
U.S. Gulf of Mexico energy producers supply nearly 15% of the U.S. oil production and over 2% of natural gas production. Offshore oil and natural gas development supports over 350,000 jobs nationwide and contributes billions to the economy and local, state and federal coffers. Gulf oil and gas revenues also fund 60% of federal energy revenue that support numerous conservation projects.
The ruling came after the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association urged the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to ensure that the Final Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program include all 10 of the proposed lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico as well as the proposed sale for the Cook Inlet in Alaska.
It expressed concern that the agency potentially “Leaving open the option to hold zero future lease sales puts U.S. energy security at risk and compromises U.S. producers’ ability to provide affordable, reliable energy to the American people.”
“Independent analysis shows that oil and natural gas are going to play an important role in fulfilling U.S. energy needs for the foreseeable future,” Mike Moncla, president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association,” said. “The question is whether the oil and gas will come from here in the U.S., where it is produced under some of the strictest environmental standards in the world, or if the U.S. will cede our position as global energy leaders and instead become reliant on foreign sources to supply our energy needs.”