Consistently throughout his presidential campaign, President Biden repeatedly indicated his intention to “ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” Only one week after taking office, on Jan. 27, the president issued Executive Order 14008, representing the administration’s first major step toward that goal. Among other provisions, the Executive Order directs the Secretary of the Interior to “pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters.” The president did not offer any time limit for this “pause,” providing only that new lease sales are to be suspended “pending the completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices.” Leadership at the Department of the Interior has subsequently confirmed that the administration has set no deadline for completing the review Executive Order 14008 requires.
Consistent with Executive Order 14008’s directive, the Bureau of Land Management has since cancelled all oil and gas lease sales that were scheduled to be conducted in the first two quarters of 2021. Not surprisingly, challenges to these cancellations materialized almost immediately. On the same day the pause was announced, industry groups Western Energy Alliance and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming filed suit in Wyoming federal district court. Eight weeks later, on March 24, 2021, numerous states filed two more lawsuits: (i) the State of Wyoming filed a challenge to the cancellation of onshore lease sales in the District of Wyoming; and (ii) a coalition of 14 states filed a challenge to the cancellation of both onshore and offshore lease sales in the Western District of Louisiana. Among other contentions, each suit alleges that the cancellation of oil and gas lease sales violates a statutory mandate in the Mineral Leasing Act providing that “[l[ease sales shall be held for each State where eligible lands are available at least quarterly.” Continue Reading