States Seek Order to Show Cause Against Federal Government in Oil Leasing Lawsuit

A group of states asked the Western District of Louisiana on Monday to require President Biden and the federal government to explain why they have not been following the courts orders and allowing oil and gas leases, specifically lease sale 257, and require the defendants to comply with the preliminary injunction issued on June 15.

The states claimed that “this relief is warranted to remedy the ongoing harms to Plaintiff States from Defendants’ refusal to comply with the injunction’s straightforward terms.” The states initiated the lawsuit as a response to the Biden administration’s executive order which paused new oil and natural gas leases, which they claimed violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the U.S. Constitution, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and the Mineral Leasing Act. 

The ruling the states are seeking to enforce includes an injunction against the executive order. In the ruling, the court determined that the President does not have authority to pause the oil and gas leases but, rather, that authority is held by Congress.  Specifically, the preliminary injunction was issued in relation to lease sale 257, lease sale 258, and eligible onshore lands nationwide, it was set to last until the litigation is resolved or until a court rules otherwise.

In a memorandum supporting the present motion the states claimed that the federal government is still holding a pause on onshore lease sales, and that “every day that passes without compliance irreparably harms” them. They noted that the hearing was seven weeks ago and that, in that time, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has not taken any action to hold the lease sale but has instead focused on wind energy projects which are not mandated.

To support their allegations, the attorneys general noted that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland admitted that a pause is still in place in a testimony before congress on July 27, and refused to answer if any action has been taken to reinstate lease sales. 

“Defendants have acted as if this Court’s findings, conclusions of law, and compulsory order do not exist,” the states alleged. They claimed that the executive branch does not have any valid defense for their inaction in following the court’s orders and asked the court to compel action in the matter.

The states, including Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia, are represented by their attorneys general. The defendants are represented by the U.S. Department of Justice.