A federal judge lifted the Biden's administration temporary ban on new oil and gas leases on public lands and offshore waters.
In a victory for 13 red states that filed the legal challenge in Louisiana, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday blocking President Joe Biden's Jan. 27 executive order while the litigation continues.
Biden's order called for a 60-day pause during which the Interior Department would conduct a "comprehensive review" of its leasing program. The president said the agency should consider its "broad stewardship responsibilities," including the impact of global warming.
Oil industry advocates cheered the ruling after warning any long-term halt in leasing jeopardizes jobs and domestic energy production. Environmental groups countered the judge's order fails to account for the damage done by climate pollution.
The Interior Department said it is reviewing the ruling and will comply with it.
The agency said it is working on an interim report that will "outline next steps and recommendations for the department and Congress to improve stewardship of public lands and waters, create jobs and build a just and equitable energy future," according to an emailed statement.
Doughty's ruling requires the Interior Department to immediately restart its leasing program, even as the agency continues its review of the effects of drilling.
Doughty, appointed to the bench in 2018 by former President Donald Trump, ruled that Biden's executive order violated federal laws governing oil and gas leasing. He also faulted the Biden administration for failing to offer "any rational explanation" for its pause.
"Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake," Doughty wrote. "Local government funding, jobs for plaintiff State workers, and funds for the restoration of Louisiana's Coastline are at stake."
Doughty refused in May to allow environmental groups to intervene in the case, saying that the Natural Resources Defense Council, Healthy Gulf and other groups had not shown federal government lawyers would not adequately represent their interests.
A similar challenge by oil and gas industry groups to the leasing pause is pending in Wyoming.
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