A federal judge in Wyoming today affirmed the Biden administration’s authority to not hold oil and gas lease sales in early 2021. The judge further found that industry groups lacked standing to challenge those lease sale postponements.
The Wyoming court rejected across the board the arguments by industry and Wyoming, and found that BLM acted well within its legal authority in postponing lease sales in order to ensure that it fully considered the environmental harms they could cause. The court recognized that authority and properly upheld the postponements.
“We are pleased to see this well-reasoned order in such an important case,” the groups said. “We hope that moving forward, the Biden administration won’t shy away from exercising its authority to limit oil and gas leasing in order to protect our climate and the environment.”
In early 2021, the Biden administration issued an executive order aimed at tackling the climate crisis, which directed the Department of the Interior to temporarily pause new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and offshore waters. The pause was meant to provide the federal government an opportunity to undertake a systematic review of its oil and gas program and consider how to address its climate impacts. In June 2021, Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Department of Interior from moving forward with a moratorium under President Biden’s order, while noting that the government could still postpone sales based on National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other concerns.
On August 18, Judge Doughty permanently blocked the leasing pause in the thirteen states that had sued over the order in Louisiana District Court. That decision came one day after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the preliminary injunction, finding that it lacked “specificity” and focused on an executive action that had not yet been finalized.
The oil and gas leasing pause has been the target of five lawsuits filed across Republican-led states, including the suit brought by the state of Wyoming, which was consolidated with a separate suit from the Western Energy Alliance (WEA). Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) intervened on behalf of 21 groups in Wyoming to defend the lease sale postponements and leasing pause.
Earthjustice is representing Conservation Colorado, Friends of the Earth, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, Valley Organic Growers Association, Western Colorado Alliance, Western Watersheds Project, and Wilderness Workshop. The Western Environmental Law Center, which is co-counseling the case, represents Center for Biological Diversity, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, Earthworks, Food & Water Watch, Indian People’s Action, Montana Environmental Information Center, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Western Organization of Resource Councils, and WildEarth Guardians.
Perry Wheeler, Earthjustice, 202-792-6211,