Pressure is on for feds to comply with Louisiana order restarting oil and gas leasing


The Interior Department could be held in contempt of court if it doesn’t soon comply with a Louisiana federal judge’s order to restart federal oil and gas leasing, attorneys for the oil and gas industry tell Bloomberg Law.

The department temporarily suspended quarterly oil and gas leasing nationwide in January while it reviewed the leasing program. But in the case Louisiana vs. Biden, Louisiana U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty on June 15 issued a preliminary injunction enjoining and restraining Interior from implementing the pause.

As Bloomberg Law reports, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said last week the department is complying with Doughty’s order and will follow the law, but she declined to say how exactly it’s doing so.

If Interior doesn’t conduct a quarterly lease sale soon, “the secretary risks a contempt citation from Judge Doughty,” John Martin, an oil and gas lawyer and Wyoming-based partner at Holland & Hart LLP, tells Bloomberg Law. “One would expect that those lease sales would have to go forward forthwith.”

Meanwhile, the department’s Bureau of Land Management, which oversees onshore oil and gas leasing, is actively issuing drilling permits on existing leases nationwide. The pause applies only to new leases.

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