Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined a coalition of thirteen states in filing suit against the Biden Administration for imposing a moratorium on future oil and gas leasing and drilling permits on federal land. The lawsuit contends that the moratorium on leasing through the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) violates that Administrative Procedure Act.
“The decisions of President Biden and his administration, including his decision to impose a moratorium on future oil and gas leasing and drilling permits on federal land, will undoubtedly hurt hard-working Missourians who are just trying to make ends meet,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “President Biden’s actions will negatively impact a wide swath of Missourians and Missouri industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, and more. Missourians are already feeling the pain at the gas pump, and if President Biden continues to rule by executive order, it will only get worse.”
In January, President Biden issued Executive Order 14008 declaring a moratorium on future oil and gas leasing and drilling permits on federal lands. The Biden Executive Order halted all oil and gas leasing operations, days after the Interior Department halted development and exploration of existing leases.
To facilitate the Outer Continental Shelf’s expeditious development, OCSLA directs the Secretary of the Interior to “administer the provisions of this subchapter relating to the leasing of the outer Continental Shelf.” To this end, OCSLA requires the Secretary to create a Five-Year Leasing Program and authorizes her “to grant to the highest responsible qualified bidder or bidders by competitive bidding, under regulations promulgated in advance, any oil and gas lease on submerged lands of the outer Continental Shelf” not covered by prior leases.
OCSLA also requires the Department to review lessee requests for approval to explore and develop oil and gas resources. States are entitled to significant portions of the proceeds from Outer Continental Shelf leasing and production. The Mineral Leasing Act has similar provisions for onshore oil and gas development. These laws affirm Congress’s intent to responsibly use our own resources as a means of achieving energy independence.
The lawsuit explains further, “The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and Mineral Leasing Act set out specific statutory duties requiring executive agencies to further the expeditious and safe development of the abundant energy resources on public lands and the Outer Continental Shelf. In compliance with those statutes, the Department of the Interior has for decades issued leases for the development of oil and natural gas on public lands and offshore waters.”
The suit argues that both the OCSLA and MLA leasing moratoriums violated the Administrative Procedure Act for failing to provide reasonable time to allow public notice and comment, for unreasonable delay, for being contrary to law, and for being arbitrary and capricious.
The lawsuit states, “The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and Mineral Leasing Act set out specific statutory duties requiring executive agencies to further the expeditious and safe development of the abundant energy. In compliance with those statutes, the Department of the Interior has for decades issued leases for the development of oil and natural gas on public lands and offshore waters.”
The lawsuit continues later, “The Leasing Moratoriums also harm Plaintiff States in their capacities as purchasers of energy. Plaintiff States purchase massive quantities of energy in performing their sovereign duties. The Leasing Moratoriums will directly and imminently lead to higher energy prices harming Plaintiff States’ ability to exercise their sovereign functions.”
These leases help America to reach its full energy-production potential, and, for the states specifically, they also provide significant environmental benefits because portions of the lease proceeds are invested into vital State environmental defense and restoration projects. In fact, each year the federal government returns billions of dollars to the States and environmental reclamation projects from OCSLA and MLA lease proceeds for critical environmental restoration and protection projects.
Additionally, the agencies implementing the Order – the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Land Management – rushed to stop long-planned lease sales without any consideration whether President Biden’s executive order complies with the law, the public good, or the procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.
In addition to Missouri, the following states joined in the lawsuit, led by Louisiana, that was filed this morning in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.