IPAA Joins API, Other Oil & Gas Trade Associations in Lawsuit Over Illegal Federal Leasing Ban

Today, the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and 10 additional national and state oil and natural gas trade associations filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s illegal leasing ban on federal lands and waters.

In June, in response to a lawsuit filed by Louisiana and 12 other states, U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty granted a preliminary injunction against the illegal ban, ruling that it violated the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), laws passed by Congress that requires the executive branch to hold lease sales, and that the president had no legal authority to enact such a pause without approval from Congress.

In its lawsuit, API also alleged violations of OCSLA and MLA and that “the indefinite leasing pause is inconsistent with both statutes.” Additionally, API alleges the administration is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act because it failed to file a record of support and explanation for policy changes and failed to give opportunity for official public comment over implementation of new rules.

Announcing the lawsuit, Paul Afonso, API Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, said:

“With the indefinite pause on federal oil and gas leasing, the department failed to satisfy procedural requirements and ignored congressional mandates for holding lease sales. The law is clear: the department must hold lease sales and provide a justification for significant policy changes. They have yet to meet these requirements in the eight months since instituting a federal leasing pause, which continues to create uncertainty for U.S. natural gas and oil producers. As our industry takes action to preserve our legal rights, we will continue working with the Biden administration on policies that support a lower-carbon future while providing access to the affordable, reliable energy our economy needs to recover.”

Joining API and IPAA on the lawsuit are the American Exploration & Production Council, International Association of Drilling Contractors, International Association of Geophysical Contractors, National Ocean Industries Association, Montana Petroleum Association, North Dakota Petroleum Council, Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma, Southeast Oil and Gas Association, Utah Petroleum Association, and Western States Petroleum Association.

The administration has justified the ban to give the Interior Department time to conduct an environmental review of the federal leasing program – an argument rejected by Judge Doughty. Secretary Deb Haaland has said for weeks now that the review would be released by “early summer,” but as August turns to September, the department has still not indicated a date for the review’s publication.

Last week, the state of Louisiana submitted a court filing that the department is defying the injunction because it also has yet to schedule lease sales, particularly for Sale 257 in the Gulf of Mexico. The Interior Department has until August 24 to respond to that new filing.

Other states and industry groups have taken legal action in response to the illegal leasing ban, including those from the states of Wyoming and North Dakota, and the Western Energy Alliance.

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