Guest “@#$@$%!!!” by David Middleton
Firstly, a quick review of the past year…
Biden Hits ‘Pause’ On Oil And Gas Leasing On Public Lands And Waters
January 27, 2021
NATHAN ROTT, SCOTT DETROW, ALANA WISE
In an effort to slow the nation’s contribution to climate change, President Biden has signed an executive order to begin halting oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters.
The much-anticipated move is one of several executive actions the president took on Wednesday to address the worsening climate crisis and the broader decline of the natural world, but it won’t come without pushback.
The oil and gas industry, hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, is expected to challenge the move, as are fossil-fuel rich Western states whose economies are closely linked to extractive industry on public lands.
Anticipating the move, Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas companies in many Western states, said: “We’ll be in court shortly thereafter.”
Fossil fuel extraction on federal lands generates billions of dollars in royalties and revenues for local and state economies. But it’s also responsible for nearly a quarter of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and the Biden administration appears to be serious about cutting the country’s outsized contribution to global warming.
Biden’s halt on new oil and gas leasing also does nothing to affect activities on private or state lands, where roughly 90% of the country’s oil and gas development occurs.
“The industry has a lot of leases in production, a lot of leases that have been issued, so it won’t have an immediate impact. But it will give an immediate opportunity for the administration to think about how we move forward,” said Nada Culver, the vice president of public lands at the National Audubon Society.
“Ending permitting would be extremely difficult,” said Rebecca Watson, who served as assistant secretary for lands and minerals management at the Department of the Interior under President George W. Bush. “You have sold a property right, a lease, so you’ve paid for a lease and then you can’t develop it. I think there would be lawsuits and, rightly so, over a move like that.”
A permanent leasing ban would also be subject to lawsuits, she said. Under the Mineral Leasing Act, the government is required to hold quarterly lease sales. The Biden administration could make fewer or all lands unavailable for leasing, but Watson thinks a court might find that illegal.
Mark Squillace, a law professor at the University of Colorado who worked at Interior under the Clinton and Carter administrations, agrees that a permanent ban would run into more problems than a temporary pause. But he thinks the administration can make a big statement with its immediate actions.
Biden’s oil lease ban lifted by federal judge
By JENNIFER A. DLOUHY AND ROBERT BURNSON on 6/16/2021
WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) –A federal judge lifted the Biden administration’s temporary ban on new oil and gas leases on public lands and offshore waters.
In a victory for 13 states that filed the legal challenge in Louisiana, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday blocking President Joe Biden’s Jan. 27 executive order while the litigation continues.
The Interior Department said it’s reviewing the ruling and will comply with it.
The agency said it’s working on an interim report that will “outline next steps and recommendations for the department and Congress to improve stewardship of public lands and waters, create jobs and build a just and equitable energy future,” according to an emailed statement.
Doughty’s ruling requires the Interior Department to immediately restart its leasing program, even as the agency continues its review of the effects of drilling.
Doughty, appointed to the bench in 2018 by former President Donald Trump, ruled that Biden’s executive order violated federal laws governing oil and gas leasing. He also faulted the Biden administration for failing to offer “any rational explanation” for its pause.
About 300 leases received bids, mostly deepwater tracts.
- Lease Sale Map – Bid Distribution (November 17, 2021): pdf file
- Active Leases and Bids Received Map (November 17, 2021): pdf file
- Blocks Receiving Bids (November 17, 2021)
Now, just this morning…
Federal Judge Annuls Massive Gulf Of Mexico Lease Sale
By Irina Slav – Jan 28, 2022
A federal judge threw out the biggest oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico on the grounds that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management broke the environmental law—the National Environmental Policy Act—by failing to properly factor in the emission-related impact of the lease sale.
Ruling on a case brought against the Department of the Interior, the American Petroleum Institute, and the state of Louisiana, District Judge Rudolph Contreras sent the lease sale back to the Interior Department to decide what to do with it.
President Biden imposed a moratorium on drilling leases for federal lands as soon as he took office, but oil-producing states successfully challenged the moratorium in court, and the Interior Department was forced to proceed with the lease sale.
The tender brought in $192 million in winning bids for 307 tracts covering 1.7 million acres. The interest around the sale was significant in part due to the low carbon footprint of the crude extracted from these waters, compared to the higher footprint of foreign plays or U.S. onshore wells.
The Obama-appointed and incredibly corrupt Rudolph Contreras essentially directed the Interior Department to continue breaking the law. This is not the first time Contreras has unlawfully blocked a Federal lease sale.
Companies had argued to the court that vacating the lease sale would compromise the confidential bids that were submitted for the tracts, making their competitors aware of who was bidding on what, and for how much.
Any disruptions that revoking the lease sales might cause, he wrote, “do not outweigh the seriousness of the NEPA error in this case and the need for the agency to get it right.”NY Times
While the Interior Department almost certainly won’t appeal this ruling – They wanted to lose. The American Petroleum Institute (API) joined the lawsuit as intervener-defendants and will almost certainly appeal.
Time for another SCOTUS slap-down!