State sues over Biden leasing moratorium

GILLETTE — Wyoming is taking its objection to President Joe Biden’s moratorium on issuing oil and gas leases on federal lands to the courts.

Gov. Mark Gordon has announced the state filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the move ordered by Biden in his first days in office and implemented by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

In a Wednesday morning press release announcing the lawsuit, Gordon said the lawsuit assets that implementing the moratorium violates federal law.

“Following a careful review of not only the president’s executive order, but tis practical effect, it is necessary for Wyoming to protect its citizens and challenge the secretary’s actions,” Gordon says in the announcement. “Not only is this federal action overreaching, it was implemented without public input as required under federal law.”

The moratorium was among the first raft of executive orders Biden made after his Jan. 20 inauguration. Many of the orders focused on fossil fuels and the president's campaign promises to eliminate them in the U.S. within the next decade. Along with halting all federal leases for oil and gas, he also rescinded the permit for continued construction of the 1,200-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline between Canada and the United States.

While Wyoming filed its own lawsuits, 13 other states also signed onto another lawsuit Wednesday challenging the moratorium that impacts federal lands and waters. Those states are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

Wednesday’s lawsuit was filed in the Federal District Court of Wyoming and claims the moratorium violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy Act. It asks the federal court to set aside Haaland’s decision to implement the leasing ban and that the Bureau of Land Management be allowed to resume its quarterly oil and gas lease sales.

A scheduled first quarter sale for federal oil and gas leases in Wyoming has already been postponed because of the moratorium.

The governor “emphasized that the president’s de-facto ban on oil and gas leasing will not meet the climate goals on the administration, as production will simply shift to other countries with less stringent emissions standards,” according to the press release.

“The world will continue to need and use oil and gas for the foreseeable future,” Gordon said. “The question is whether it will be produced under the environmental safeguards in place on federal lands in Wyoming, or overseas without equally stringent regulations.”

Gordon said he anticipates other states will consider intervening in support of Wyoming’s lawsuit.

Wednesday’s filling isn’t the first legal action taken in response to Biden’s executive orders targeting fossil fuel energy. Wyoming is one of 21 states that have signed on to a lawsuit filed last week seeking to overturn the Keystone XL pipeline decision.

“The Keystone project was authorized by Congress and would provide economic benefits to multiple states, including Wyoming,” Gordon said in a press release last week. “It’s foolish to think cancelling this pipeline does anything good for the country or climate. It will merely shift production offshore to places with lower environmental standards, worse safety records and laxer workforce protections, while at the same time undermining our own domestic energy security. Let’s put America first because we do it right.”