Judge blocks Interior Department's pause on oil and gas leases in 13 states

The judge said the Interior Department violated federal law by canceling leasing on federal lands
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Joe Biden, Washington, D.C., Nov. 23, 2021
Joe Biden, Washington, D.C., Nov. 23, 2021
Alex Wong/Getty Images

A Louisiana federal judge blocked the Biden administration's authority to pause oil and gas leases in 13 states, one day after an appeals court tossed the judge's injunction.

The Interior Department violated federal law by canceling leasing on federal lands following President Joe Biden's 2021 executive order telling the agency to pause those activities pending an extensive review of the leasing program, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty said Thursday.

The 13 states are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. The ruling does not apply to other states.

The offshore leases affected by the ruling are already set to go into place following Biden's signing Tuesday of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Judge Doughty said that through the Mineral Leasing Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act the government is required to sell leases and only Congress is able to stop oil and gas leasing, Reuters reported.

"Rather than doing a comprehensive review while the scheduled oil and gas lease sales took place, the secretary 'put the cart before the horse,'" the judge wrote on Thursday.

In June 2021, Judge Doughty issued a preliminary injunction stopping the pause on leasing, causing the administration to proceed with lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

The 5th Circuit Court on Wednesday threw out Doughty's preliminary injunction, stating that the original order was not specific enough and did not properly define the action that was limited.