Energy

Biden Administration Quietly Delays, Stops Oil And Gas Leasing After Legal Defeat

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Thomas Catenacci Energy & Environment Reporter
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  • The Biden administration warned that the federal oil and gas leasing program would face significant delays amid its appeal in an ongoing legal fight with Republican-led states.
  • “Work surrounding public-facing rules, grants, leases, permits, and other projects has been delayed or stopped altogether so that agencies can assess whether and how they can proceed,” the administration wrote in the filing.
  • “The Interior Department has assessed program components that incorporate the interim guidance on social cost of carbon analysis from the Interagency Working Group, and delays are expected in permitting and leasing for the oil and gas programs,” Department of the Interior spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said in a statement.

The Biden administration warned Saturday that the federal oil and gas leasing program would face significant delays amid its appeal in an ongoing legal fight with Republican-led states.

The administration said that a federal judge’s ruling temporarily blocking the White House from considering the so-called “social cost” of carbon and methane emissions would result in major delays to ongoing federal programs including oil and gas leasing, according to a Department of Justice filing late Saturday. Programs at the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, Department of the Interior (DOI) and Environmental Protection Agency will also be delayed or frozen as a result of the ruling

“Work surrounding public-facing rules, grants, leases, permits, and other projects has been delayed or stopped altogether so that agencies can assess whether and how they can proceed,” the administration wrote in the filing.

“The preliminary injunction irreparably harms the federal government—and therefore the public interest—by chilling the free exchange of ideas in internal government deliberations regarding the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions,” the filing said. (RELATED: Biden Administration Stays Silent On Major Oil Drilling Sale After Fossil Fuel Industry Appeals Ruling)

On Feb. 11, Judge James Cain, Jr. of the District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, granted a preliminary injunction requested by a coalition of 10 Republican state attorneys general challenging the Biden administration’s “social cost” policy. The policy, stemming from a January 2021 executive order signed by President Joe Biden, would require agencies to evaluate the approximate dollar value from every additional metric ton of carbon emissions before approving certain projects.

Cain ruled that the policy would cause states injury and ordered the Biden administration to stop enforcing it pending further litigation. The administration appealed the ruling over the weekend.

Oil pumpjacks operate in a field in Los Angeles, California, on Jan. 28. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Oil pumpjacks operate in a field in Los Angeles, California, on Jan. 28. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

But the ruling has hampered agencies that have already incorporated the policy into their process, according to the Saturday filing from the DOJ. (RELATED: Federal Judge Tosses Lawsuit Challenging Biden’s Authority To Block Keystone Pipeline)

“The Interior Department has assessed program components that incorporate the interim guidance on social cost of carbon analysis from the Interagency Working Group, and delays are expected in permitting and leasing for the oil and gas programs,” DOI spokesperson Melissa Schwartz told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement Monday.

“The Interior Department continues to move forward with reforms to address the significant shortcomings in the nation’s onshore and offshore oil and gas programs,” Schwartz said. “Specifically, the Department is committed to ensuring its programs account for climate impacts.”

In a separate case involving Republican states, a federal judge ordered the administration in June 2021 to halt its moratorium on new oil and gas leases. However, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is tasked with overseeing the leasing program, has missed multiple deadlines for holding oil and gas sales since then.

“The Biden administration continues to defy the courts and the law,” Senate Energy Committee Ranking Member John Barrasso of Wyoming said in a statement on Feb. 16 after the latest deadline miss. “The BLM has blown past a critical deadline required to hold the first federal onshore oil and gas lease sale this year.”

The DOI promised to sell nearly 200 drilling leases across 179,001 acres in Wyoming, but it failed to issue the required posting by Feb. 16, KPVI reported. The agency incorporated the social cost policy into its environmental assessment of the lease sale, which is the likely cause of the delay.

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