By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming officials are asking a federal court to force the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to resume oil and gas lease sales on federal land pending the outcome of the state’s lawsuit against the Interior Department.
Gov. Mark Gordon announced Tuesday that the state has asked the U.S. District Court in Wyoming to issue an injunction allowing oil and gas lease sales to continue while the federal government conducts its review of the federal leasing program.
“This litigation does not challenge the (Interior) secretary’s authority to review the federal oil and gas leasing program,” the motion said. “Instead, Wyoming challenges the secretary’s suspension of federal oil and gas leasing before complying with applicable federal law.”
In his first days in office, Biden issued executive orders that have halted oil and gas leasing on federal land until the leasing program can be reviewed.
Wyoming in March filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department, alleging the halt to leasing violates a number of federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, and saying it amounts to a “de-facto moratorium” on federal leasing.
The request for an injunction filed Monday said the Interior Department halted lease sales without seeking input from the public or considering all the impacts of such a move.
“Put simply, the (Interior) secretary took a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach to managing federal land by failing to involve the public, provide an explanation, or consider any environmental impacts before suspending the federal oil and gas leasing program,” the motion said.
State officials have said if a halt to leasing remains in place for several years, it could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, a fact cited in the motion.
“The secretary’s suspension of federal oil and gas lease sales deprived Wyoming of millions of dollars in revenue afforded to Wyoming by federal law,” it said. “Wyoming’s injury will compound each subsequent quarter the secretary’s suspension of federal leasing remains in place. Wyoming suffers from the lost opportunity cost of not having federal leasing revenues in Fiscal Year 2021 to support its schools, highways and local governments.”
Resuming the leasing program is the only way to solve the problems created by the suspension, the motion concluded.
“A preliminary injunction is necessary to remedy the harms caused by the secretary’s suspension of all federal oil and gas leasing,” the 49-page motion said. “The secretary’s purported unsubstantiated greenhouse gas benefits do not outweigh the public interest in ensuring compliance with federal laws which, in turn, generates substantial revenue for the federal government.”