Republican States Ask Court To Order Biden Admin To Resume Drilling Leases

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Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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More than a dozen Republican states asked a federal court Monday to order President Joe Biden’s administration to resume issuing leases for new drilling.

In a court filing, the states argued the Department of the Interior (DOI) is not following a court order in June compelling the administration to end its pause on new leases for oil and gas drilling, The Hill first reported. Biden signed an executive order in January that temporarily halted new leases pending a review of DOI permitting and leasing practices.

Although new drilling leases were paused under the executive order, ongoing drilling projects on federal land and water continued and the DOI continued to issue permits for drilling on lands that it had already leased. (RELATED: US Drilling Approvals Pile Up Under Biden Admin Despite Campaign Climate Pledge)

CULVER CITY, CA - APRIL 25: Oil rigs extract petroleum as the price of crude oil rises to nearly $120 per barrel, prompting oil companies to reopen numerous wells across the nation that were considered tapped out and unprofitable decades ago when oil sold for one-fifth the price or less, on April 25, 2008 in the Los Angeles area community of Culver City, California. Many of the old unprofitable wells, known as "stripper wells", are located in urban areas where home owners are often outraged by the noise, smell, and possible environmental hazards associated with living so close to renewed oil drilling. Since homeowners usually do not own the mineral rights under their land, oil firms can drill at an angle to go under homes regardless of the desires of residents. Using expensive new technology and drilling techniques, California producers have reversed a long decline of about 5 percent annually with an increased crude flow of about 2 1/2 million barrels in 2007 for the first time in years. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Oil rigs extract petroleum in Culver City, California (David McNew/Getty Images)

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, however, issued a preliminary injunction in June that temporarily lifted the Biden administration’s pause on new leasing. Republican states argued in Monday’s court filing that the administration has not followed the order.

“Defendants have violated the Court’s June 15 Order by their continued application of the Pause to refuse to hold new onshore lease sales,” the states argued, adding that the court should “order Defendants to comply with the law and this Court’s injunction.”

The filing specifically referred to the Biden administration’s continued pause on Lease Sale 257, which was expected to lease around 78 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for offshoring drilling before being rescinded in February.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland argued before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in late July that the administration was in compliance with the June court injunction even without having held new lease sales. (RELATED: Small Oil And Gas Companies Say They’re Under Threat From Biden’s Climate Agenda)

“We are complying with the court order right now. As we speak, the department is working. As I mentioned, there’s a lot of work that goes into even having a lease sale and so they are complying with the court order,” Haaland told the committee.

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President Joe Biden confers with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland during an event June 30, 2021 in Washington, DC (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

But she later admitted, “I suppose the pause is in effect,” when asked about the Biden administration’s continued lack of new lease sales.

“You can say that as soon as one lease sale happens that the pause is over, but what I can say is we’re complying with the court order,” she added.

Haaland had previously told members of the House Natural Resources Committee in June that her department’s review of permitting and leasing practices would be completed by “early summer.” But that review hasn’t been completed yet, the secretary said during her July testimony, assuring senators a report would be released “soon.”

“It is past time for the administration to comply with the law and hold new lease sales,” Republican Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso told Haaland. “The Biden administration seems intent on destroying the livelihoods of oil, natural gas and coal workers in the West.”