API, energy industry groups file suit over Interior Department’s pause on oil, gas leasing

Published on August 18, 2021 by Dave Kovaleski

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A group of 12 energy industry trade groups. Including the American Petroleum Institute (API) filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI’s) indefinite pause on oil and natural gas leasing on federal lands and waters.

The suit – filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana – states that federal leasing laws, including the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCLSA), prohibit an indefinite pause on lease sales onshore and offshore. The MLA requires quarterly onshore lease sales, and the OCSLA directs the expeditious development of resources offshore. The plaintiffs add that this move by the DOI is inconsistent with Congress’s intent and circumvents congressional mandates through administrative action.

“With the indefinite pause on federal oil and gas leasing, the department failed to satisfy procedural requirements and ignored congressional mandates for holding lease sales,” API Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Paul Afonso said. “The law is clear: the department must hold lease sales and provide a justification for significant policy changes. They have yet to meet these requirements in the eight months since instituting a federal leasing pause, which continues to create uncertainty for U.S. natural gas and oil producers. As our industry takes action to preserve our legal rights, we will continue working with the Biden administration on policies that support a lower-carbon future while providing access to the affordable, reliable energy our economy needs to recover.”

Along with API, 11 other organizations are involved in the suit, including the American Exploration & Production Council, Independent Petroleum Association of America, International Association of Drilling Contractors, International Association of Geophysical Contractors, National Ocean Industries Association, Montana Petroleum Association, North Dakota Petroleum Council, Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma, Southeast Oil and Gas Association, Utah Petroleum Association, and Western States Petroleum Association.

The groups state that under the Administrative Procedure Act, an executive agency is required to provide a record of support and explanation for a change in policy along with the opportunity for public comment when it implements new rules.