14 states sue Biden administration over oil, gas lease pause

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March 25 (UPI) -- Fourteen Republican-leaning states sued the Biden administration to vacate executive orders that suspend the leasing of new oil and gas drilling on federal lands, arguing the moratoriums threaten livelihoods and environmental protection projects.

Thirteen states led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry filed the lawsuit on Wednesday while Wyoming separately filed its own asking the court to enjoin the executive orders President Joe Biden signed on Jan. 27 as he sought to strength the nation's domestic and international climate change policies.

"By executive fiat, Joe Biden and his administration have single handedly driven the price of energy up -- costing the American people where it hurts most, in their pocketbooks." Landry said in a statement. "Biden's Executive Orders abandon middle-class jobs at a time when America needs them most and put our energy security in the hands of foreign countries, many of whom despise America's greatness."

During a press conference Wednesday, Landry described their lawsuit as "an opening salvo against Joe Biden's declared war on America's oil and gas workers."

The 54-page lawsuit argues the orders Biden signed to ban new leases on federal land violate the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Mineral Leasing Act that direct executive agencies to further oil and gas development.

The attorney generals argue Biden's order undercuts his own intention to protect the environment as leases signed under these two acts return billions of dollars to coastal states for reclamation and environmental restoration projects.

"Executive Order 14008 glistens with irony," the Louisiana suit states. "It purports to protect the environment but it constitutes what is likely the single-largest divestment of revenue for environmental protection projects in American history."

During the press conference, Landry also accused Biden's executive order of picking "winners and losers" as it bans new leases on federal lands while allowing Native Americans to conduct such energy extraction on their own land.

The lawsuit also accuses the Biden administration of failing to adhere to rule-making procedures by bypassing comment periods and other such steps prior to the pauses going in to effect.

Landry during the press conference called the moves by Biden an "aggressive, reckless abuse of presidential powers that threaten our families, livelihoods and our national security."

When asked about the lawsuit Wednesday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters that oil and gas jobs "aren't going anywhere" as existing leases will continue.

"This will not affect oil and gas production or jobs for years to come," she said.

The Department of Interior explained the day the executive orders were signed that existing oil and gas operations would not be impacted nor does it restrict energy activities on private or state lands.

The order, the department said, will provide a time to review oil and gas programs after the former Trump administration "conducted a fire sale of public lands and waters."

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