By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The U.S. Department of the Interior is dragging its feet in complying with a federal court ruling for it to resume mineral leasing on federal lands, according to Gov. Mark Gordon.
Gordon on Wednesday issued a statement criticizing the Interior Department for its response to a federal court judge in Louisiana who ruled against the halt on mineral leasing imposed by the administration of President Joe Biden.
“Wyoming does not believe that Interior is following either the letter or the spirit of the court’s ruling and certainly continues to violate the law,” Gordon said. “Interior has only committed to move forward with preliminary scoping for the past canceled lease sales, an action that should have occurred long ago.”
“It’s the governor’s belief that Interior is doing the minimum amount necessary to meet the court order,” said Michael Pearlman, a spokesman for Gordon.
A federal judge in June ruled that the Interior Department did not follow its own rules when it imposed a halt on oil and gas leasing on federal lands.
Because the ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the state of Louisiana against the Biden administration, it applies only to federal lands in Louisiana, but officials in other states, including Wyoming, have said it could set precedent as other judges review challenges to the halt.
The Interior Department, which is appealing the judge’s ruling, has filed documents showing what steps it will take next to comply with the ruling and resume leases.
But Gordon said it is obvious the Interior Department is doing the minimum amount of work to resume lease sales.
“From these actions it is clear that Interior has no intention of conducting a lease sale at all this year,” he said. “That is unacceptable and unlawful.”
The delays appear to be the result of an effort by the Biden administration to complete its appeal of the ruling before being forced to resume lease sales, Gordon said.