The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing a Louisiana federal district judge’s June 15, 2021 nationwide injunction that directed the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to end its pause on new federal oil and gas leasing. Judge Terry A. Doughty’s June injunction blocked President Biden’s January 27, 2021 Executive Order that paused new leases for oil and gas development on federal lands and in offshore waters. Thirteen states, including Louisiana and Texas, sued the government over the pause, arguing they were deprived of proceeds from leasing and that the pause would result in job losses, higher oil and gas prices in their states, and other economic losses. In issuing the injunction, Judge Doughty sided with the states, finding that the pause likely violated the Administrative Procedure Act and that the states demonstrated a substantial threat of irreparable injury with “[m]illions and possibly billions of dollars” at stake.
Since the June 15, 2021 injunction, however, the DOI has yet to schedule new lease sales. On August 16, 2021, the DOI stated it will comply with the injunction’s instructions to resume federal oil and gas leasing during the pendency of the appeal and “will continue to exercise the authority and discretion provided under the law to conduct leasing in a manner that takes into account the program’s many deficiencies.” No further details on the timing or scope of leasing have been provided. The DOI’s statement comes a week after the states sought a court order to force a sale of offshore leases this year and the same day as the American Petroleum Institute and 11 other energy industry groups filed a lawsuit challenging the DOI’s pause on leasing.