A federal judge blocked President Joe Biden’s pause on issuing new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, preventing his administration from carrying out one of its premier policies to combat climate change.
Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction to 13 states that sued the Biden administration over its leasing pause.
The order applies nationwide, forcing the administration to end its pause and proceed with offering new leases to drill on federal lands and offshore waters.
“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,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, one of the plaintiffs on the suit.
The ruling will remain in effect pending appeals to higher courts, the judge said.
This comes after Biden signed an executive order in January imposing an indefinite pause on issuing new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, a step toward fulfilling a major campaign promise to ban new leases altogether.
The pause was met with fierce backlash from the fossil fuel industry and states, including Democratic-led ones, that depend on oil and gas production revenue to fund their budgets.
The pause on new lease sales does not stop companies from obtaining permits to drill and develop oil and gas on existing leases. Interior Department officials have stressed that U.S. companies continue to develop oil and gas on federal lands during the pause on new leasing and that states and the federal government are not losing significant amounts of revenue.
The Interior Department is expected to release a report later this summer on whether it intends to make the indefinite pause on oil and gas leasing permanent or propose reforms to raise costs and impose stricter regulation on oil and gas development on public lands and waters instead.
But the Louisiana judge, a Trump appointee, said the states that sued sufficiently proved they are suffering harm from the pause on new leasing.
“Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake,” Doughty wrote.
The states joining Louisiana’s lawsuit were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.